Friday, July 9, 2021

Expand Your Worldview Without Sacrificing Your Faith

Wouldn't it be great if we could learn how to separate our feelings about a person's value from our feelings about their behavior? It's an ability that must be practiced on purpose. If there's one thing social media has taught me, it's that there are lots of opinions out there and only some of them are tolerated. In my opinion, that is the epitome of ignorance---but we often see that kind of behavior from some of the most "educated".  I have had the opportunity to form relationships with women of all different ages and from many different countries and cultures and have a few ideas about expanding one's worldview without sacrificing one's faith. I hope some of my experiences will encourage you if you find yourself struggling in this area.

In this context, I'm defining "Faith" as one's principles, the things that form their character. This could be religious based or not. My faith is based on a historical understanding and literal interpretation of the Old and New Testaments found in the Bible. The result of that learning and understanding has been a saving relationship with the Messiah Yeshua, Jesus Christ.

What's interesting to me is that many people who are called "ignorant" by others who disagree with their point of view don't see themselves as ignorant at all. Truly, to be ignorant of something means to lack knowledge of it, but in today's culture, it implies one is uneducated or unsophisticated in most things. Both terms are relative---anyone who thinks there is a set standard of "educated" or "sophisticated" is pretty ignorant themselves. I would argue that many people who are called ignorant have no idea they're acting that way at all---it's not on purpose. And if it's not on purpose, then why do people get so angry with an ignorant-acting person? Wouldn't the educated and sophisticated thing be to teach that "ignorant" person so they can make better decisions about their behavior?

We are all a sum total of our experiences and influences and we can all learn from one another. I get really excited when I hear that someone is interested in culture studies, people watching, languages, etc. This means they want to know more about their world and how to better function in it. They want to talk less and listen more. This gives me hope! 

One experience that has expanded my worldview tremendously is my participation in the worldwide hobby of BookCrossing. I've been a BookCrosser for almost 15 years---which means I started in my mid-20s. Through the years of sharing books, reviews, ideas, presents, and more, I've met people from all over the planet in many different walks of life. I've been a student of how people think and respond based on the culture around them, as well as how they view my culture. I've read books I never would have chosen had they not been recommended to me---many that aren't sold in the US by authors we've never heard of! It's been an amazing experience and I've not had to leave home to enjoy it! (I'm elizardbreath on BookCrossing, if you choose to join us!)

I've also had the opportunity to travel extensively through England, sometimes with multinational tour groups, but this worldview-growing technique can be done anywhere. I've learned to ask questions---and ask the right questions. I don't ask about their culture's favorite foods or entertainment---that can all be found easily online. I ask personal things about their religious practices, how they view marriage and family roles, education, social issues, how they interpret the American culture. This is how we break stigmas and get to know individuals. When I do this, I find that the many differences in individuals within a culture is what makes us all similar. Don't be afraid to ask a polite question to someone you're interested in knowing better. Very few people will be offended by someone who is genuinely curious and people love to talk about themselves!

The activity that has probably grown my worldview the widest and the quickest is my international pen pal matching service, The Victorian Letter Writers Guild. I created this organization in the summer of 2017 and we're currently got over 700 members worldwide. Interested members fill out a detailed profile before participating in the many group exchanges and pen pal matches I offer each year. I have made so many friendships this way with ladies from all over the world and of all different ages and lifestyles. I haven't yet invested a dime to make this happen and the benefit to my ever-growing understanding of people and their cultures is priceless. Maybe you can join a multinational group such as this---or start your own!

In all of these experiences, I have been both the ignorant person and have encountered the ignorant person. In almost all cases, I've found that it's really just a lack of knowledge---and a plethora of preconceived ideas---that causes the ignorance. When I've assumed things about the other person, I've gotten myself into trouble, but never have I had a conflict when I asked a question instead. 

We Christians have a saying: "love the sinner, hate the sin", yet we often refuse to learn how to truly value a person who is living a lifestyle different from what we believe is acceptable to God---or even just one that is hard for us to understand. However, when we take the time to really learn about someone who thinks or lives differently from us, we find that we can form a genuine relationship based on our commonalities and can eventually positively influence each other. As much as I want to keep myself holy and set apart for the Lord, I've found that the act of pursuing a better knowledge and understanding of this great big world of people He created helps me to better live here as long as He allows. Keeping close to the Father as I travel through it ensures I can expand my worldview without sacrificing relationship with Him.

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