“Fully equipped with our own sets of values, of which we are largely unconscious, we sally forth in the world and automatically see behavior with glasses colored by our own experience” – Customs and Cultures by Eugene A. Nida, 1954 edition, page 2
Mr. Nida’s book opens with the following story:
Local church elders loudly opposed the suggestion by missionaries that women of the congregation be required to wear clothing concealing their breasts when attending Church. In that part of the Congo, the well and fully dressed female citizens were all too often prostitutes.
In other cultures examined by Mr. Nida, full-length grass skirts were the adornments worn by the modest.
Bare breasts and covered legs = Proper Decorum.
(I will also note that my stretch marks, sagging abdomen and full hips would fetch a very high bride price in some cultures. Here, I’m just ugly.)
My own foray into examining my rigidly held beliefs came during the fads of black hair, black nails and clothes designed to detract from, rather than add to a person’s attractiveness. (at least from my viewpoint.)
While attending a Mother-Daughter outing, sponsored by my mom’s employer, we shared our Country Dinner playhouse table with another multi-generational pair.
I was younger than both the moms and older than the fourth member of our party.
There was subtle criticizing going on by the older generation of the style of dress and hair, that was easily observed to be followed by the youngest member of the group.
Dangerous waters if I’m to open my mouth at all.
I do not like the current style.
However, I dislike open disdain of another’s choices, (especially when those choices do not interfere with the life and liberty of others) even more.
Time to take a stand.
“I guess I ponder why it seems teenagers are doing their best to make themselves ugly when compared to current standards of beauty. Perhaps it’s their way of rebelling against our tendency as a society to “judge a book by its cover”, much as our celebrated Civil Rights heroes did in their day.”
Then an excited, “That’s exactly what it’s about, though I didn’t realize it until now!” from the youngster.
“Well, you have a point.” from the elders.
Rest of the day spent in enjoying our time together, regardless of our differences.
In my mind, success.
Given recent losses in my own life, I feel I’ve gotten even better at identifying what’s important and what’s not. I’m sort of arrogant in my self-proclaimed status of ‘one who determines if such and such will really matter in a hundred years.”
I’m also pretty proud of my willingness to put myself in the position of receiving a lot of public criticism – even though I’m sensitive by nature and careless comments quickly forgotten by those who uttered them haunt me for years.
I’m also really aware of “Pride goeth before a fall….”
When confronted by issues that immediately ‘offend’ me, I’m more likely now to first examine exactly why I’m offended, rather than justify my offense.
Sometimes, there really isn’t rational basis for my reaction. I have a choice to let it go or hold onto it.
Other times, I have to choose between either speaking up or condoning actions not in tune with my beliefs via my silence.
And sometimes, I have to re-arrange my internal priority list in order to be true to myself and stay out of Hypocritical Territory.
Not an easy path to walk.
Dissenters label it, “neurosis and co-dependence issues”
Supporters call it, “Aware Living”.
And I often draw the fire of both sides.
Ah well. “If they’re shooting at me, they’re leaving someone else alone,” is my motto….
Sometimes living the Golden Rule is more about meeting folks where they are at, rather than giving them what you say you want.
Learning how to love others without betraying myself is something I haven’t quite mastered.
But at least the knowledge now resides in my “I Know I don’t Know” file cabinet.