— Carol Vanhoozer, CSI Counselor
Students in wheel chairs, older and younger, with varying skin tones, speaking unfamiliar languages, wearing strange clothing or even stranger hair, supporting political agendas people at home would call bogus or even dangerous…if you’re a CSI student, this is your campus!
Engaging such persons can be interesting, educational, disturbing, fun, scary and challenging—how do you turn it into a win-win situation for everyone?
So Who Wrote THE RULES?
Each of us is raised in a group that teaches us from the moment we’re born THE RULES for life. We learn from parents, friends, church, social media and TV what to believe, who is ok and who is not ok, proper behaviors for interactive situations, and so on. These rules are usually subconscious—in other words, we generally have no idea that we learned them starting at a very young age. We just assume they are correct: they are THE RULES all happy, healthy, sane, responsible and moral people abide by.
As we mature, we realize that other RULES exist. Our initial response to THOSE RULES—held by people different from ourselves–is sometimes confusion, resistance or rejection. THOSE RULES might not make sense to us and we can see all kinds of problems THOSE RULES create. Worse, we often don’t know how to play by THOSE RULES and aren’t even sure we want to learn how to do so.
How do I Respond to THOSE RULES?
- Celebrate your culture!
- Stay connected with those healthy persons who poured into your life growing up. Continue spiritual practices, learn how to make your favorite home dishes, journal your memories, and reaffirm your identity as a valued member of your tribe. Live by THE RULES you’ve thoughtfully assessed as being worthy and beneficial.
- Ditch the monochromatic lenses.
- Life comes in 3-D color for good reasons! Believe it or not, happy, healthy, sane, responsible and moral people may operate by a code that is very different from your own. Before passing judgment, spend time understanding new customs, habits and ideas. You will quite likely appreciate parts of some cultures while disagreeing with others.
- For example, “I love how people in that society support each other when someone is going through a tough time. And I think that some of their beliefs about women are too narrow.”
- Try on a different pair of shoes.
- Put yourself in that other person’s place, trying to imagine what their life is like. What challenges do they face, what strengths do they possess?
- Think of this as a cheap way to travel the world.
- Keep an open mind while you curiously explore new options for human being. You don’t have to change your values, but do respect others in the same way you want to be respected.
- Google them.
- Not on your device—but in real life. Ask honest, courteous, friendly questions, and be prepared to share about your own culture. Using paraphrasing tools, such as, “If I understand you correctly…” or “What you’re saying is…” places the emphasis on understanding each other rather than debating which RULES are right or wrong. You don’t have to agree with their opinions, nor they with yours, but you can learn from each other and even form lasting friendships through such exchanges.
- Make Mistakes.
- You’ll say or do things you later realize weren’t appropriate or accurate. We all do. That’s what apologies—and humor– are for. You’ll learn so much more from taking healthy risks than staying locked in your safe little microcosm.
- Never compromise on respect: respect for yourself and your ways, and respect for other students’ beliefs and choices.
- Respect doesn’t necessarily mean you condone their behaviors or beliefs. It means you draw a line regarding behaviors you will or won’t allow in your presence, and beyond that boundary you let go of trying to force others to obey your RULES.