Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Culture Clashes in the Family

It has been a while since I wrote here. In fact, since I started I have not written the way I intended, but soon I will be having more to write about as I have two crosscultural trips planned. But in the meantime, I am having a culture clash in my own family.

My younger sister is the child of my birth mother. My twin sister and I were adopted into a different family. We grew up uppermiddle class. Our younger sister grew up blue collar. No judgements on which is better. But there are two different world views at work. And this can cause discomfort, misunderstanding, and different values.

The present issue is with values. Admittedly, my younger sister lost her mother when she was 14, and her role models since have been shaky at best. Now she is a young mother and her life has some issues. She probably doesn't know how to do things because no one ever modelled it for her. So much of what we learn in life we learn from the modelling of others -- parents, teachers, friends, etc. So my younger sister is at a distinct disadvantage. But still the difference between maturity and immaturity is not thinking about bad things. Both mature and immature people think about doing things that are bad or poor choices. The difference is mature people have the self-control and wisdom to not take it beyond thinking into action.

For example, every person is tempted to cheat sexually at some point in life. And there is a long history of examples of it making a mess of people's lives, yet people still do it. The examples go back to biblical times. Yet we still have not learned this lesson. But people who are more mature, with more life experience, hopefully will know more of this history and let it be a deterrent. Also they probably have the wisdom to choose between the passion of the moment and the value of the longer term, vested relationship it might ruin. Just one example.

I think moral issues are particularly hard to deal with. So often Christians just condemn outright anyone who admits temptation or struggle. This is denying their own depraved, sinful nature. We are all in the same boat. Nonbelievers and believers are equally sinful. The advantage we have in Christ is forgiveness and hope and the power of the Spirit to give us wisdom which can protect us from bad choices. But this is only true if we allow it to seep into us and spend time pondering it and learning from this wisdom. And our possession of this NEVER makes us better than anyone else. No wonder Christians around the world have so much trouble with people thinking they are hipocrites and such. Because we often demonstrate hipocrasy.

Truthfully, I have a Culture Clash with Christians who cannot relate to real sinful people. People who are in such denial and have such a superiority complex that they actually think they are separate because of how they are not who they are in Christ. I am way too aware of my own sinful thoughts and actions past and present to ever allow myself such escapism. And I think it is not Christlike to live in denial of your own sin and commonality with other human beings. That is what does the most harm to the Christian cause of anything I can imagine. And it is why we are disrespected and not heard.

In Brazil, such thinking is actually so common it is scary. But I hear it in the US often as well. I heard less of it in Africa, but it is there also. And it is a divide which is hard to bridge. So I never have thought myself better than my younger sister or other family because of their different values or point of view. I just get frustrated that sometimes I have perspective and wisdom that is refused. I try to offer it as nonjudgementally and kindly as I can and I hit a brick wall. Even when I am discussing things which the people themselves admit were stupid or wrongful behaviors. It's sad.

I need people who have experiences I don't have to advise and help me grow and deal with new situations. And other people need experience of people like me. Right now I am sure wishing my little sister could see this. I sure think it is sad that she is trying to find her way in the world without the advice of older relatives who have lived some of the same situations and made different choices. Maybe then I would feel like her life was less out of control. Maybe she would stand a chance of making different choices. But when this one world view is all she knows and sees, how can she?

Culture Clashes in the home are the worst kind. So divisive and discouraging.

1 comment:

P-Chuckie said...

Bryan:

It's been a long time since we last commununicated, but I promised my daughters that I would find you and so I have.

But more than reestablishing contact, this response is a commentary on your frustration with the judgmental nature of those of us who share faith in Jesus. And while I wholeheartedly agree with you that sometimes we are obstacles (read millstones) to sharing the faith which has captured us, we are caught in that place between the holiness TO which we are called and the grace BY which we are called.

I suggest that even our seemingly judgmental attitudes, rightly confessed, are in some ways driven by our heartfelt desire for a life better than the one we have, in a culture less self-destructive than the one in which we live. This is an honorable goal, even when we fail to reach toward it in less than honorable ways.

Remember the model of Jesus, who not only forgave the woman caught in adultery, but then sent her home with the clear instruction to sin no more.

You know that I am a man of grace, all the way around, but also one called to be salt and light--like you. We muist strive for the balanced life and try to model it for our families and communities.

Write on!

Chuck Legvold