Our Tinted Lenses

With baby formula and fruit in hand, Laura knocked on the woman’s door. In a moment, a bright and welcoming face appeared and ushered Laura inside. Her cheerfulness beamed from behind her head covering and ankle-length dress.

Laura took off her shoes in the closet-sized entryway/kitchen/pantry. To the right, two electric burners on top of a couple bricks constituted the entirety of the family’s domestic appliances. To the left, a small shelf stored all the family’s food. Sometimes, because they can’t always afford tea, they served Laura hot water.

The two entered the home’s single room. Laura sat down on the floor opposite the door. A tablecloth-draped stool served as the family’s table. Plastic bags hanging from nails substituted shelves, cupboards, and closets.

The woman apologized for not having more to give Laura. Laura assured her it was not a problem.

The purpose of the home visit was two-fold: drop off food and baby formula (the woman’s 15-month-old son has suffered from malnutrition for the last several month) and spend some time with a lonely woman whose husband is gone all day attempting to make a living.

The three-and-a-half-year-old daughter immediately seized upon the opportunity for some attention. She tried to open the zippers on Laura’s backpack, take her phone, and pull her glasses off her face.

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At some point the mother’s attempts to constrain her daughter struck Laura like they hadn’t ever done before.

“Hey! How embarrassing! What is she going to think of you if you keep acting like that? Other little girls are going to think you’re naughty and disobedient!”

Not once did the mother say, “This is not correct behavior,” or, “No, stop, this is wrong.”

Instead the mother appealed to shame and peer pressure. The message was, “Don’t act this way because of what other people are going to think about you and in turn what they’re going to think about us.”

It was then that it dawned on Laura: If you wanted to create a culture in which all norms were defined in terms of honor, shame, and reputation—both personal and familial—this was how you’d do it. This was how you’d discipline your three-year-old. We currently live in such a culture. Laura just discovered how such a worldview is instilled.

The ramifications are far-reaching. The fact that corruption in and of itself is wrong is not a politician’s main motivation for avoiding it. He’ll avoid it to the extent that it brings shame upon him or his family. Furthermore, if he’s caught, the intrinsic immoral nature of his action will not be the main factor that causes public uproar. Rather, it will be the fact that what he’s done is shameful and brings disgrace upon him, his family, and, by extension, his nation.

That’s not meant to tout the superiority of Western child-rearing or the Western worldview. Houston, we have our own problems. (But that’s another post.) Our point here is to underscore how deeply ingrained a person’s worldview truly is. It was etched upon us from before we have memory. And so often identifying the ins and outs of one’s own worldview—yet alone someone else’s—is difficult to say the least.

Laura finished her cup of hot water, stood, assured the young mother yet again that it was OK she hadn’t been able to give her more, and stepped back out beneath the cold winter sun.

We have so much to learn. Much to learn about ourselves, much to learn about the people among whom we live, and much to learn about the Savior who reaches down and calls us all to himself.

God be praised the Savior is so patient. With all of us. No matter the color of the tinted lenses through which we view the world.

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