Lately I have been thinking a lot about my own culture – things we do and don’t do and used to do…..It is so different from our host culture – sometimes quite the opposite! For example, the people here are really not individualistic at all and we really are! My husband was reading to our boys about the Groot Trek (the Great trek) that occurred in our history – the personalities were so strong and the beliefs so bold that they soon broke off in splinter groups and went their own ways. Yes, we are a headstrong stubborn people!
But that is just one aspect – culture runs so deep, we don’t see half of it! The thing that got me thinking about my culture is a workshop about being in a multi-cultural team that will be presented in April. Usually a missionary thinks about the other culture much more than her own! In any case I just realized again what a strong Guilt Culture we have. I sent out a short questionnaire asking two questions – What is lawful on the Sabbath? And What is worse in our culture – to lie or to lose your temper. The responses were quite interesting!
But the What is lawful on the Sabbath said it all – we justify why we do what we like on our supposed day of rest because we feel guilty! Yes, shopping can be done (even shopping for the whole month!) as long as we went to church, or read our Bible or said a short prayer somewhere on the way….guilt.
Other places it comes out as well – we buy a lot of stuff to make up for the time we don’t spend with our kids – guilt. We give something to the poor man sitting on the pavement if our child feels sorry for him – guilt. We feel guilty after indulging in too much to eat, etc, etc. Marketing people should catch onto this scoop to get people to buy their products! Something like “Don’t you feel guilty that you spend 60 hours or more at the office? – No problem - send our flowers!”
Well, all this to say I am from a guilt culture and at the moment this is what is dragging me down! I feel guilty that I don’t get out more – visit the ladies in my village more, do more! I feel guilty when I wish that not one more sick person will shout “Odi” for me to come out and help, I feel guilty that I don’t spend every waking moment I have that I am not teaching, baking, cooking or cleaning in language studies!! Guilt, guilt, guilt! Oh, to be free form it! But then I think, if I am free of this guilt – what will drive me? And then I feel guilty just thinking about all this guilt I have! All this guilt stems from a "doing culture" If you don't DO, then you ARE nothing, no respect, no status, etc and if you don't have all that then guilt sets in...... (see note at bottom)
But “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!” And “I have come so that they may have LIFE and have it to the FULL” Guilt, shame, cultural bonds, heritage – these are all things that the enemy uses to keep us down, keeping us to not live in fullness. Don’t get me wrong, not all things in our different cultures are wrong, but there are some things that definitely need renewing in every culture! I guess my question as a missionary is always – “Am I doing enough for You Lord?”
May the Holy Spirit help me sort out through all of this and bring growth and life where there are still desert areas. And as I struggle through it may I learn valuable lessons that one day I may share with the people here as they will also face some serious cultural/Biblical issues…..
Here are some very broad characteristics of doing cultures:
- Status is earned (e.g. the work you do in your job). It is not merely a function of who you are (e.g. birth, age, seniority).
- Status is not automatic and can be forfeited if one stops achieving (e.g. you quit your job).
- Great emphasis is placed on deadlines, schedules etc.
- Tasks take precedence over personal relationships in most cases (e.g. your family may not like it but they understand if you have to miss a family birthday party because you have work to do).
- People are supposed to have a personal opinion, which they are expected to verbalize.
And here are some very broad characteristics of being cultures:
- Status is built into who a person is. It’s automatic and therefore difficult to lose.
- Titles are important and should always be used, in order to show appropriate respect for someone’s status.
- Harmony should be maintained, and therefore direct confrontation or disagreement is to be avoided. Saving face is highly valued.
- Relationships often take precedence over tasks. Much time is spent on greeting and farewell rituals or getting to know someone before agreeing to do business with them.