Many ways to prepare rice

By Carmen Aguinaco

From how to prepare rice to their philosophy of life, people from different cultures who live or work together have differences and even conflict.

This is happening with growing frequency in religious communities, as they become increasingly more diverse. It can happen with something as simple as cooking to much more complicated issues, such as communication styles, which tend to be more direct in some cultures and much more symbolic and circular in others. It can also happen in devotional expressions. In some cultures, the expressions of others can seem extremely cold and impersonal or too rational, while to the latter, the other can seem excessively sweet or sentimental.

There is something almost inevitable in these clashes over the various ways of doing things or thinking: each one may consider that their way is best and be tempted to judge the ways of others as being less worthy, less theologically profound, less spiritual, and less true. It is part of an almost innate ethnocentrism we have. On the other hand, the faith and sense of community may compel them to live in a peaceful manner, which perhaps may not seem as natural for the people of diverse cultures that make up the community.

What can be done? But more than just doing, what virtues and attitudes must be cultivated? An almost heroic spirit is needed that requires first and foremost a great humility, which in the words of St. Teresa of Ávila, is the most profound sense of truth.

Thus, one can critically look at one’s own culture and see what is impure in it or not in accordance with the gospel as would be expected. Such humility will take you to:

  • A great openness to see the good in others and in other cultures. Learning other things does not necessarily lead us to lose ourselves, but to better understand our identity, culture, and perhaps even to appreciate it more, but from a less arrogant perspective.
  • Immense flexibility so as not to cling to our own but adapt to other customs and to other ways of doing things.
  • A strong spirit of dialogue. If you do not converse, perhaps you will never get to understand. You must listen to the stories of our native cultures, as well as those from each one of our families to understand many things.
  • An enormous patience. To react abruptly or without carrying out an exercise of self-analysis of our own attitudes towards what frustrates or bothers us, could create greater obstacles that are increasingly more difficult to overcome.

And why enter into such demanding and even heroic dynamics? Simply because that is our God: the God of diversity and of the immense variety of creation. The God who singularly loves each one his children and who calls us to live in community as brothers and sisters.

Your Turn
When you are with others who are from different cultures, who do different things and think different from you, what is your first reaction? Do you think the way you do things is better or do you reject your ways, thinking that others’ ways are superior? Where would you find balance?


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