When we think about culture, we often think about some alien force that has inhabited humanity. It makes us do things and value things, reinforces certain thoughts and behaviors, and normalizes things, some good and some very bad.
The thought of changing this alien entity feels overwhelming. We don’t know how we got here. We can name the things that are culture, but we cannot very easily say what culture is.
Yet, culture is something we all participate in. We often use ‘culture’ broadly, really saying society or popular culture. The truth is that every human organization, from marriage to business to religion, has it’s own culture. Culture is the consensus of decision about what is treated with honor and what is treated with shame. And we all practice it in small ways.
A Little Light
One of the reasons we are so mired in complacency is because we are waiting to be a majority. We hide or silence the hope within until we see a tipping point, the moment in time when it becomes popular or at least acceptable to be purveyors of a better truth.
A light shines in a dark room and it changes the whole atmosphere. The lamp itself takes up only a small volume of the space, yet it transforms the room from dark to light.
We are called to take our little place in this world. It has an impact. We can change the environment. We can transform the culture.
The world is full of world changers, yet the world remains the same. Why? Because world changers want to change everyone else but not themselves. Perhaps more accurate, frighteningly, is we want to change the world into ourselves.
If culture is a consensus on what is honored and what is shamed, the beginning of changing culture is to take a deep internal look at what we ourselves value. Not with lip service or in response to popular trends, or what our parents believed or in opposition to something we see on television, but what truly matters to us?
Change comes from the inside out. The problem with culture is not them, it is me. Nothing will change in the greater culture until we take ownership of what needs to change in the internal culture of our hearts, minds, and souls.
Too many would-be-world-changers want to stomp around on the moon without going through any astronaut training. We want to make a difference in the world without being any different ourselves. And that just won’t work.
All of us are wrong. All of us. We may be right about a fact or an issue but wrong in how we care for someone. We may be right on a theology but wrong on a practice (or vice versa).
When encountered with the consequence of our imperfection, we deflect. My anger is because of them and therefore they need to change.
Ownership is the beginning of change.
Influence Versus Control
People are free. And they will make their own choices. We cannot control what others do or say or believe. And we should stop trying. We need more conversation and less dictation. More humility and less fear. More honesty and less presumption.
We influence through modeled behavior. We can’t hate one opposing entity and then be mad when they hate in return. If we want to change culture, we have to steward the best within ourselves. And we need to find a neutral ground on which to have productive conversations.
Our culture is suffocating from a lack of humility. Nothing will change until each of us begins to be ourselves more humbly. Our attempts at control are an insecurity, afraid we cannot influence properly. So, we try to short circuit the way a community works. We try to be dictator, sovereign, god. And in a world trying to be gods, chaos and terror are inevitable.
It’s time for a change.