mardi, novembre 25, 2008

on being christian, asian, canadian and confused.
*caveat: vast sterotypes ahead.

i don't think i ever considered how growing up with asian parents in a Christian household in North America has influenced me, but lately, i think it has more than i'd like to admit. i used to think i was pretty westernized, because i'm definitely not 'asianized', but i think i'm a bit of both, which yields some strengths, but often just leaves me confused.

The paradigm with which i approach the world isn't my parent's paradigm, nor is it a WASP paradigm. (read: i am confused about life!) It's almost as though I see things through two lenses, but two lenses makes my vision more blurry, not less!

For example, let's take a career-choosing process. Most people coming from a Western paradigm choose the career that would make them the most happy. Western culture is a very individualistic culture. Growing up in North America, we are told that we should choose a career that fits with our own needs and desires, strengths and weaknesses. People coming from an Asian paradigm choose the career that would make the majority of people around them the most happy (most of the time, this boils down to what would make the parents happy). Growing up, we are constantly reminded of the honour or shame we could bring to the family unit.
So what about a person like me, who has grown up in both worlds? When I decided to join staff, and knew my parents might not be happy about this decision, I talked to many people, who told me the same thing, "Honouring your parents and obeying them are two different things. You can honour your parents without necessarily obeying them."

Sounds good, if you're white, right? But for an Asian, this makes NO sense! Ephesians 6:2 in the Chinese bible is translated as xiao jing, "to show filial piety". When it comes to Asian parents, obeying and honouring are one and the same. Not two different things, like Western culture postulates. Thus, advice that might work for someone coming from a caucasian family does not work for someone coming from an asian family, even if they are somewhat westernized.

There are so many other things that are influenced by this "growing up eastern and western" tension:

  • Relationships with people: in western culture, trusting people at face value is important, whereas in eastern culture, reading into one's actions and underlying motives is important.
  • Work ethic: when I was growing up, I was taught that because of individualism, caucasian work ethic was lesser than asian work ethic. Because of this, I have expectations of my performance that seem realistic to me, but to many of my caucasian friends seem unrealistic.
  • Decision making: I often tend to think of the needs of the ministry or others before my own. (note: this isn't necessarily based on generosity or love for the other individual, but for honour and to avoid shame) So, when I'm making a decision, the collectivist me comes out, but if I ask others for advice, they might tell me, "You can't think of others right now, you need to think of what is best for YOU so that YOU can function well." For me, me and others are so integrated in my mind, I can't always separate the two things. Yet, I am not so collectivist, because in my mind, I know that while I'm looking at what could be good for the team as a whole, people in that team, aren't necessarily thinking the same way I am, and are much more individualistic. This makes me want to not be collectivistic, because if others aren't caring about me, why should i care about them? (Unbiblical, I know. but also very westernized thinking.)
  • Training and finances: Sometimes, the training I am given is hard to apply. For example, during training on how to support raise, we were given certain application points, not all of which work in asian culture where finances (unless to brag or boast) aren't really discussed openly.

There are so many areas that are influenced by this tension of being Asian and Canadian, and once you toss in the idea of being Christian as well... it's even more complex. Being Christian should transcend race and gender (Galatians 3:28), but in practice this is so much harder, since culture is so ingrained in who we are as people.

Anyways, I am not here to present any solutions. Believe you me, had I solutions, I wouldn't be here blogging about having trouble making decisions. I think, one day, I will write a book. Lord knows, us Christian Asian Canadians need some sort of manual on how to live life with an identity crisis.

8 commentaires:

Jess a dit...

dude, this is so helpful in understanding you! It makes so much sense. Lately I've felt very critical of western individualism, but then reading this also kind makes me appreciate certain aspects of it. Like, knowing some of the things you're struggling with and then having to think collectively on top of that is an overwhelming thought for me.

Thank goodness for Gal 1:10 (is this also another example of 'that's easy cause you're white'?)

Loco a dit...

i love you lydia for posting this post. i totally congree with you!!!

i sorta feel being selfish if i start being all western ideas and such. like with that whole "you have to think about YOU" makes me think is that even Biblical. and it doesn't help that you kinda grow up being told that you're better than the honkies. they're lazy so don't be like them... we asians achieve. that's what we're made for.

and ppl wonder why i'm a perfectionist...

Monica a dit...

Haha....definitely can relate to this one. Don't know if there are any solutions per se, but I can recommend this book I blogged about last year if you haven't looked at this entry:

The stories are all written by North American, Asian Christian women on staff with IVCF. Definitely worth a read!

Lydia a dit...

hahah yeah, that's funny, i just bought that book today...or at least, ordered it from chapters!!!

Anonyme a dit...

There is a middle (correct) path between the two! Even if we can't always figure it out :P

Otherwise, on what basis could I criticize both Western and Chinese culture? And I do like to criticize, so I will not give up my Biblical basis to denounce different aspects of both :P

This blog post helped me see certain things that I take more for granted as having roots in my Chinese upbringing, though :)

Anonyme a dit...

Oh, and don't forget that you're christian, asian, canadian and confused and also a francophone

It's My DLu! a dit...

hey lyds,

good post. we've kind of talked about this sort of thing before. i'm dig it.

i think one thing that has helped me is to not see either eastern or western thing as "all good" or "all bad". cliche, but true. it has allowed me to be flexible in different situations and draw strength from both cultures.

for example: our staff team situation, where i am a cd, and shawn (a 20 year staff veteren, and was cd for 10 years here) have to figure out how to work together. i think having an eastern mentality of 'honouring elders' (or those in authority), but then also applying a western mentality where entreprenerial leadership is valued, allows us to have a very healthy working relationship (ie: i'm not continually looking to him for leadership, but i'm also not lording leadership over a very wise and experienced man). does that make sense?

maybe i'm an optimist, but i like that i grew up as a chinese canadian b/c i DO have access to different perspectives. i like that this allows me to be more flexible in my thinking and in how i act as i think through what parts of both cultures are healthy and beneficial.

anyway let me know what you think. i'm sure we'll dialogue about this sometime when i'm in mtrl!

Deepak a dit...

Actually, this is something that I had to do a lot of soul-searching about. Being an East Indian male with East Indian parents who wanted me to go to Med school and marry an East Indian girl.

The med school path, I obviously have not done that. And little is to be said about the East Indian girl path.

And then I started thinking about what Paul meant when he spoke about a new citizenship (Eph 2:19-22, Phil 3:20-21). And I realised that Paul's not just talking about sonship. But he's talking about a shift in worldviews and a re-organization of priorities to reflect transformed and redeemed minds and hearts. Which comes from the Spirit writing His laws on our hearts.

And living life has been less confusing since then.