Friday, August 1, 2014

Influence of Culture On Us

The influence culture has on us is difficult to gauge. We are born into a culture and from the earliest years, it begins to form us. What we say or fail to say, what we do and don't do, what we consider polite behavior, can often be  predicted.  A vice principal of an elementary  school is an example in the Peace Weekly article  of how he was programed to act in one way but chose to act differently. The mission he gave himself was to be  concerned with those he was meeting daily.

With a simple word, we can energize or hurt another. The article begins with the words from a talk on Valentine Day of this year where Pope Francis talking to the young people said a healthy family requires the use of three phrases: "Thank you, I'm sorry, May I?" The  vice principal began using these  words in the position that he occupied at the school.

He mentions where he reprimanded a teacher for what he had done. This continued to bother him. The teacher from that time avoided the vice principal. In Korea, the senior and junior relationship is extremely strong and for an older person, and one with a higher position to apologize to a younger person, and of lower rank is difficult. He went to the class room  of the teacher and apologized for the hurt given by his words.

The teacher didn't know what to say hearing these words from the vice-principal. For the vice-principal to say he was sorry was awkward, to say he was sorry to a younger teacher was  embarrassing, but  as soon as the words left his mouth, he felt great relief. The teacher also was happy to have the relationship restored and told him of his relief.

The next day at home he told the family that he loved them. He was determined to use words that he had never used in the past. The wife with a smile on her face told him to refrain from using insincere words. She did admit: "We show that we love each other, by the way, we treat each other, but by expressing our love in words does help the respect and the care we have for each other."

That afternoon he ordered five pizzas for the teachers' room. They were puzzled  on what prompted the change in the vice-principal's behavior. He just wanted to show his appreciation for all they were doing, and they gave him a round of applause and were happy to see the change.

"Expressing with words what I had inside allows me to know myself. My family and those I work with daily are precious, showing thanks gives me great peace" these words of the vice-principal expressed his change of attitude.

We live according to the words we use, and they become our actions and way of life. In Sirach 18: 15-16 we read: "Like dew that abates a burning wind, so does a word improve a gift. Sometimes the word means more than the gift..." The article ends with the journalist lamenting the coldness and stiffness  of our society and a desire to see the more frequent use of kind words with  those we interact with daily.

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