Key Thought for this session:

“I came into this world yearning for an abundant and virtuous life; what happened?”

Did you know culture is really a control system? Culture is actually an informal control system that is shared by every member of a community. Culture orients thoughts, feelings and actions around what is considered important and what is expected in different situations. Some people see culture as a source of virtue and others see culture as an influence of corruption and fraud. Culture is sort of like the wind. We cannot see it but we see its effects. While culture is invisible, it is generally known by symbols, stories, and actions of leaders. There are many different areas in which culture affects how you think, feel and act. There are micro cultures for organizations and families. Yet these exist within macro cultures that influence entire countries or regions. What foods people eat, how they view authority, aggression, women, and time are just a few of the many ways culture is expressed in a community.

A community’s cultural pride can be helpful to bring people together to work for a common purpose. However, cultural pride can also have negative consequences. Cultural pride can breed what is called “ethnocentrism”. Now that is a big word but it has a very simple meaning. “Ethnocentrism” is the feeling of one group that they are superior to another. It is an abuse of pride. The sense of being superior leads to conflict among communities as each believes they are more important than the other. This conflict leads to competition and bad feelings between people in different communities.

While the culture of your country has values that make it distinct from other countries, every local community and family do not share the national culture in exactly the same way. One challenge with worldviews is when micro and macro cultures conflict. For instance, how would you handle situations if your family has an aggressive culture or sees women as equal to men, but your greater community is more passive and nurturing or see women as second rate citizens? What if your family is willing to take risks but your community often prefers safety and certainty? Resolving conflicts among the cultures you share often challenges your worldviews. It can create confusion or even rebellion in you.

While your social identity helps you form a sense of belonging, your personal identity is how you see yourself separate from others and the image you project to those in your community. Social and personal identities often compete, where one will dominate the other. Here’s a simple story to illustrate social and personal identity and how they work within people’s perspective of what is true about themselves.

Once there was an orphan girl who lived in the slums of the city. She felt abandoned, was alone and had to find ways to feed and clothe herself from the garbage heaps around the town. Everyone who lived in the slums knew how to survive and get their needs met as an outcast of society. One day the rich man who lived in the mansion on top of the hill above the city was moved with compassion for the orphan girl and chose to adopt her. Thus, she came to live with him in the mansion on top of the hill above the city. She had all new clothes and could feast at the rich man’s banquet table. However, while the girl knew in her head she was adopted, she still felt like an orphan. She identified more with the street people than as a child of the rich man. She felt uncomfortable in her new identity because she still saw herself as destitute. Instead of receiving the provisions and privileges of her new father, daily she would go back down into the city and look for food and clothes in the garbage. Although she had been given a new identity, she still viewed herself as an orphan.

Let me ask you this question, why do you think the girl could not feel, think and act as an adopted child of the kind rich man?