THE LIGHTS CAME ON
My goodness! This book offered many answers to my professional, academic, ministry, and personal life.
As a co-owner of a business, many light bulbs went on! This helps me understand and have grace, a bit better, for people who communicate, decide, trust, and disagree differently than myself. On the flip side, I realize that my style can have a positive and/or negative effect on business based on all the eight categories that Meyer listed and described. I will be reflecting upon this going forward.
As an artist, I don’t deal with many of these aspects, other then relationship-building. I wonder, however, if there is a separate category for the way artists might fit into this. I do find that artisans have a very different way of looking at life and relationships, and I wonder if art crosses all boundaries of culture.
Having been a missionary to Russia, there were so many aha moments as I read this, realizing the explanations as to why activities were planned the way they were. One thing that seems highlighted is the fact that Russians are high context, affective, relationship-based people. It took me several years of continually being present before one of my Russian friends opened up, but when he did, he vomited out his life. It was a little surprising to me that we went from 0-60 at one coffee meeting when years prior we had just coasted at 30. I knew that building trust was an important aspect, but I didn’t realize that it would come to fruition so dramatically.
I wonder what the connection might be to high-context, relationship-based global individuals and those who suffer from trauma. Years ago, my husband and I volunteered at a homeless shelter in downtown LA, and I experienced something similar. We would cook a meal once a month and then encourage our volunteers to pick a table and go and sit and talk with the women. Every month I would sit at a table with this woman who barely looked at me. If I asked her a question, she would grunt an answer. Several years went by, and God just kept nudging me to sit at her table (and there was always an available seat). One day, out of the blue, we were prepping a meal in the kitchen, and she came down, seeking me out to have a conversation! What?! And then the golden moment occurred. She made a joke and gently punched me in the arm. Internally I was doing a happy dance. It took four years to get there, and it happened! I left there rejoicing to my husband, “I’m in! I’m finally in!”
The two books for this week — “The Culture Map” by Erin Meyer and “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error” by Kathryn Schulz — have given me a lot of inspiration. Last week I was feeling a bit of anxiety, but these two books are helping me to see the light through the forest.
First, I realize, after reading Meyer’s book, that all the mixed messages of being biracial make sense. It doesn’t make the inner struggle any more comfortable, but there is a bit more awareness. Two very different cultures colliding in one household has brought confusion when approaching the scriptures, but reading this began the process of untangling.
Second, this statement was me reaching up to turn on the light. “Effective leadership often relies on the ability to persuade others to change their systems, adopt new methods of working, or adjust to new trends in markets, technologies, or business models. So if you are a manager of a team whose members come from a culture different from your own, learning to adapt your persuasive technique to your audience can be crucial” (101).
In the context of my future research, how do I help other biracials adjust their lens so that the Scriptures make sense? The Scriptures cannot be changed, but adjusting the lens can be helpful for those who identify with being 100% in two different cultures. “But when considering the differences between Asian and Western thought patterns, we need to use a different lens” (104).
Third, blending in the art form is much like listening to the air. “Communicating messages without saying them directly is a deep part of our culture, so deep that we do it without even realizing it” (33).
Some of the conversations and struggles my husband and I run into seemed to be highlighted when I was reading Meyer. On the one hand, it’s easy to point to the idea that we come from different family structures, but throw in cultural differences, nuances of communication and disagreement styles, and there is a lot of frustration. I loved the Bahamian Proverb “To engage in conflict, one does not need to bring a knife that cuts, but a needle that sews” (218).
Meyer, Erin. The Culture Map (INTL ED). PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.
11 responses to “THE LIGHTS CAME ON”
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Nancy, I appreciate the struggle within the messages. I wonder if I am not quite understanding my particular neighborhood because I am not as immersed in my activities and relationships. There is much to say about the social struggles between those with peach-colored skin like mine and dark brown colored skin like my neighbor
Perhaps it’s about watching and listening more?
Are you familiar with Inner Change? (https://www.innerchange.org/) They are a missions organization that plants people into impoverished neighborhoods (not to insinuate that you are in an impoverished neighborhood, but your comment sparked this memory). A few years ago a couple entered our church, transplants from Texas — the husband is a Brit and the wife is a Texan (ie both of them are caucasian). After service I happened to be standing next to the wife and I asked her how she was going to make a start in this new ministry.
In the sweetest voice, she said, “I think I’m going to make some muffins and head out and meet my neighbors.” I thought she was crazy because I knew the neighborhood they were in because we had lived not too far from them (alot of gangs — in fact, we lived on a corner where 13 gangs crossed with the largest being MS13). I responded with, “I’ll be praying for you.”
Weeks went by and they were continuing to participate in small ways within their neighborhood. Then one day, my husband had a conversation with the husband and they had a similar conversation that I had with his wife. The husband mentioned that he began attending the funerals. He said it took some time, but eventually they warmed up to him and began to trust him.
The moral of the story: it’s in the small details. Don’t sweat the big stuff. Just start small.
Nancy it is inspiring when we get insight into information that sheds light onto current relationships and experiences. I have several cousins who were adopted and are bi-racial (from black-puerto rican to Native American of various tribes) , Along with that, my son married into a predominately Hispanic family. Do you find that the degree of struggle bi-racial people have differs depending on their racial background and where they fall on the context scale? Does it make a difference if they are second or third generation versus first generation Americans? I ask because I am close to many of my cousins and I find that the ones that have had the roughest time maneuvering life are the Native Americans.
There are alot of deep questions here that I feel would be better answered in person. Let’s grab a cup of tea or sit next to each other at one of the dinners and chat.
I definitely want to hear more about your family!
Thanks for responding,
I look forward to it!
You’re an artist and were a missionary to Russia!?! You keep revealing more and more intriguing aspects of your life to us. Am I right in inferring your research to deal with helping multi-racial individuals in their faith?
Wait until the end of three years! Ha ha! Aren’t you sorry that we’re not with the same adviser? [she asks smirking]
Yes, my hope is to develop a hapa theology using art to help my community. The short of it is that I sense a calling to become an art theologian. How that unfolds is the question …. and you know you’re very much a part of this journey.
There’s no doubt that culture shapes us in ways we are not aware. I appreciate the imagery of the lens as we think about our approach to Scripture and interaction with others. We may not change either, but we can adjust the way we see. I’m grateful that our cohort is a blend of people of a wide variety of perspectives and experiences. I’m personally hoping for lots of light bulb moments in this journey!
I appreciate your statement that we can’t change others, but we can adjust the lens. I’m looking forward to light bulb moments too!
Bringing up artisans and how they seem to bring a unique perspective to relationships, projects, and teams made me think about how trauma affects how a person shows up in a room, communicates, collaborates, disagrees, etc. My weekend was saturated with friends and partners from around the world who each carry various levels of trauma. I wasn’t surprised to notice that those who experience trauma on a daily basis exhibit behaviors that are either withdrawn or abrasive and, often, in contrast with Meyer’s eight scales. Your thought about artisans and my observations about trauma stand as necessary reminders that one way of measuring how a person shows up in relationship or collaboration is limited. So many factors impact our presence and practice. Thanks for spurring this on in me, Nancy.
The trauma piece or addition does make a difference and, I believe, skews things. It’s interesting to see that you have experienced the same.