This means that each person is primarily responsible for growth in becoming and developing their unique potential as a being in relationship, specifically as this is understood within one's own cultural milieu. Humans live this primary responsibility within the sphere of their relational and social worlds, which is a mix of shared obligations and entitlements. Ideally, human beings possess the power (agency) and responsibility to share the direction and destiny of their own lives. At the same time, all human beings find they are dealing with the reality of human limitation. No one escapes the claims of sickness; physical, mental, and moral weaknesses, aging; suffering of all stripes; the experience of anxiety and fear; and ultimately, death. Theologically speaking, humans, personally and corporately, are situated in a multidimensional world where they manifest the gift of freedom through the panoply of decisions made every day.
An important caveat here includes an ever-growing awareness that severe debilitating environmental situations, such as child abuse, untreated acute mental illness, racism, or other forms of physical and psychic neglect, often result in a distorted sense of one's capacity to author one's own life in relationship, coupled with the possible inability on the part of such persons or groups to access the means to achieve their full potential. These persons neither bear the primary responsibility for their failure to thrive nor the same moral culpability and capacities as others reared in healthier, freer, and more nurturing environments. These individuals are the victims of the cycles of abuse and dehumanization that distort Russell's vision of the human person as previously cited.
A theological vision of the human person includes the conviction of God's predilection for the poor and the notion of grace, God's eternal self-gift of life. It is the anawim, the poor of the world, to whom God directs abundant grace to assist those most downtrodden with the almost miraculous capacity to transcend undeserved extreme hardship and live authentically rich human lives in spite of severe restrictions placed on their freedom and destiny.
As previously noted, the innocent suffer. Injustice abounds in a world populated by billions of people who do not necessarily live peaceably with each other or equitably share the material resources needed for survival. Starvation remains a reason why thousands of people, mostly children, die each day in povertystricken areas of the world. Institutional slavery, the Holocaust, and 9/11 are but three examples of historical realities that mark and mar the human story; in each case these realities are human inventions, arise from complex situations, devised and perpetrated by the free exercise of human minds, hearts, and hands. The long sweep of religious tradition has sought an explanation as to the nature of human nature and what kind of a God, Divine Benevolent Being, or Creator of the Universe would permit such atrocities in a world of God's own creation? In Christian theology, the category used to contain and explain these aberrations of human nature is sin and original sin. Christian doctrine or faith-based teaching on the matter is quite clear: precisely because it is not in God's nature to manipulate human free will, the possibility for evil exists within human capacity. There was, however, original blessing before original sin. The Creation myths in chapters 1 and 2 of the Hebrew Scripture's book of Genesis are the bases for a creation theology that arises from the hymn that recounts God's blessing in the design of the created world and includes the capstone of the creation of man and woman in God's own image. The nature of human nature in its totality is essentially good and oriented toward goodness. Joy, pleasure, laughter, and love reflect God's original intention in sharing partnership with human beings in partnership with each other in caring for the earth and all God's creatures, great and small.
The great truth-telling myth of The Fall is the scripturally based lesson that human freedom exercised through Adam and Eve resulted in a tragic choice to presume that the decision to disobey the Creator would have no consequences (Gen. 3). Classical theology has named the first sin as one of hubris, meaning pride. In relation to the Genesis story of The Fall, the hubris attributed to Adam is understood as his decision to replace a God centeredness with ego centeredness and dismiss God's claim upon him. Adam and Eve and the fall symbolize the illusion that someone other than God is god. The choice of the mythic first parents turned paradise into the human predicament that is now part of the unavoidable painful realities that impact every human life. Original sin is the universal fact of human existence into which every human person is born.
Probing questions as to what the origin of sin says about the nature of God or of the Divine remain central to the theological enterprise, which reflects on the meaning of human experience in light of the reality of a God whose presence remains active in the world. Theologian Carol Frances Jegen suggests that the root of our misunderstanding about personal and social sinfulness is a distorted image of God. Far too often, persons carry an image of a demanding, vengeful deity who sends suffering to punish or test. This image of God supports the notion that human nature became essentially "fallen" as a result of the mythic Fall, thereby changing the innate human disposition toward goodness and right relationship to an innately self-centered disposition prone toward selfishness at the expense of others.