Our memory can be provoked by reading about someone else’s life. This happened for me when I read about Jeff Guinn’s new book on Charles Manson. Guinn spent three years of intensive research on Manson’s childhood. That’s what caught my attention.
It’s obvious Charles Manson has crafted his reputation as a “bloodthirsty lunatic.” But, Guinn says, “he is anything but a bloodthirsty lunatic.” Guinn believes he is a “gifted, calculating psychopath who used people.”
Guinn wrote “even as a first grader” he conned girls to beat up a boy he didn’t like, and then claimed the girls did what they wanted. “He wasn’t to blame.” This is what caught my attention. Childhood becomes the clue to understanding the actions of a person. In this case, it also reveals that a child is not innocent in their own behaviors, especially when they learn to cover up trouble that points at them.
I knew by the age of two I had a violent streak. Maybe it was enhanced because I am a twin. There are two specific times I remember that anger characterized my actions. One, was being place into a corner facing the wall for being disruptive. I was angry at a big person for physically placing me into the corner. It was shameful, even for a two year old.
Second, playing with my brother in the back yard, with another friend, I got mad, and busted a pop bottle over both their heads. The friend had a father who was a policeman. I knew I was in trouble. I also realized from that day until even now, I have temper problems. I grew up understanding in my own mind, I could end up in prison for some kind of violent act.
Fear motivates. I didn’t want that to happen. I had the story of my dad to remind me that prison is no place to be. My dad ended up in prison, my grandfather ended up in prison, and several uncles on my dads side of the family ended up in prison. Violence was part of my background. But, I didn’t know that at two years of age. I just knew violence solved my problems.
How can the mind of a two year old or a grade schooler like Manson be changed ? Plus, do all children eventually have to deal with anger and violence ? Maybe not, but behavior is learned, even if it begins with ourselves, in our own hearts and minds.
Seems like we either are aggressive or passive aggressive, one or the other. It may be even worse to be characterized as passive aggressive. yet, a person can be both to control their world. In prison, my dad was challenged to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. From that day forward, the Price family was given an example, in house, to influence our behavior.
That didn’t take away my own penchant to fight. That didn’t take away anger. That didn’t take away sins which characterized me in my own thinking. I chose to follow Jesus when I was ten. That didn’t always motivate me to do the right things. The difference between my dad and myself. He grew up with a crook for a dad, I grew up a preacher’s kid.
Changing behavior is a life long process. For me, it has to include the Lord Jesus Christ in the process, or a person can become prisoner of their own thoughts and actions. That would be very hard to change without help. A sick person needs to take their medicine on a daily basis. It would be the right thing to do if a child was given daily help from God’s word. Even so, the child is still held accountable by God and society. Starting with the way a person thinks is key.
“Even as a first grader” Charles was a con.