When Cultures Clash – Got Heart?

We encounter clashing cultures every day of our lives. If it is not another’s politics it could be his/her world view that rubs us all wrong.

How do we respond to such differences? Do we tune them out? Resist them with all our might? Become judgmental? Haltingly embrace them?

On a flight home recently it occurred to me that the best response to a culture clash is one that comes from from the heart.

I sat next to a man who was an incurable proselytizer. He talked “at” me for a solid two hours. That type of situation usually gets my hackles up but mostly I just withdraw into silence.

First, this person tried to sell me on some multilevel marketing scheme. When I would not bite on that venture he tried to convert me to his brand of religion. Again I resisted his overtures. However I had a nagging sense that I should dig a little deeper into his story. It was at that point that he began to reach my heart.

He told me that he had been in prison for a fraudulent business venture. During his incarceration he had a life-transforming experience. A religious group had made weekly visits to his prison and embraced him with love and acceptance. His resultant life change was now being expressed in him helping to improve the lot of prisoners all over the world. In one institution in Ethiopia, he responded to the prisoners’ need for better ventilation by paying for the construction of better air ducts in the prison. This and other acts of his kindness found common ground in my heart. I told him,

“It is obvious that I have difficulty with the basic premise of your religion. However, I am moved by your acts of compassion towards those in need.”

Acts of kindness from the heart set the stage for a loving connection even when cultures clash in the most radical ways. For me, love transformed him from a proselytizer that I wanted to avoid to a compassionate human being I sought to engage.

Where and how did you make a heart connection with people and cultures so radically different from yourself?

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About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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