You may be sick of me talking about Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility, but it is profoundly influencing what I am thinking about. (I think that is the goal of every author, at least this one!)
My thought today has to do with Duane Elmer’s exploration of ethnocentrism. In other words, the view of life through the filter of one’s own culture, believing it to be the best.
When you move overseas you constantly compare things to your homeland. The way people drive, what people where, the food you eat, as well as the general sense of cleanliness, time, and productivity.
Perpetual comparison becomes exhausting. It wearies one to always be searching for ways in which your culture is superior. This can keep us from realizing how amazing the people and nation we serve in actually are.
So, STOP IT!
I remember the first time I returned to the United States after moving to South Africa. Everything was fantastic! I was so excited to do my favorite things and eat my favorite foods. Each morsel seemed extra special.
This rush has dwindled through the years. Although the taste in the food is the same, the excitement has become ordinary. One of the reasons is I have adapted, with South Africa has becoming more of a home.
People often ask that very question. “Does South Africa feel like home?” My moments spent hesitating before responding are getting shorter, my positive reply coming forth faster.
Yes, it does. As this sense of home has increased, my tendency to negatively compare has decreased.
I find myself telling people about America, but rather than the joys, I often speak of things I don’t appreciate. This does not mean I do not like my own country. But I feel a great need to highlight the good in South Africa. Every country has things you like and dislike, through living abroad my perception of these things is sharpening.
For example, the early years of the school system here impress us. We see our boys being taught to respect and honor of adults. This is something that is lacking in the United States.
Ethnocentrism is normal, and not all bad. The good side is a loyalty or patriotism to the land of your birth.
It becomes a negative when you are imprisoned by your own perspective, resisting other views or change; which results in judging and making assumptions.
If we continue comparing, the country you serve in will never measure up, even if it is a fantastic place to live and work. Comparison will poison your view of the very people you feel called to serve. You will find yourself depressed, lonely, and on the fast track to giving up the missions call.
Take off the glasses which only look through your own culture. Look for the good in the land you serve.
What are some things that have helped you succeed in beating the comparison syndrome?