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"Quitting" in Asian Culture

Posted on September 10th, 2013

Jiji Harner, from the Philippines, assisted me in my “I Quit” seminar in Singapore. I thank her for gathering these insights and helpful observations through her experience as a Filipina and her diverse experiences as a professional counselor. Quit being afraid of what others think…poses a much greater challenge in Asian Culture compared to Western culture.  You could see the puzzle in the faces of the participants. “If I quit being afraid of what others think – then who will I become?”  The desire to please and submit to authority has been inculcated in our minds. To undo this tendency is almost impossible because it is considered disrespectful, bad and ungodly to not do what those around you expect of you. To varying degrees Asian cultures tend to be other-directed, thinking: “How will others view my actions?” Instead of self-directed: “What do I think of my action?” People in Asian cultures tend to be more sensitive to how others are affected by their behavior. They tend to want to align their behavior to keep order and are even willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the group. If they are to quit being afraid of what other thinks of them, it will shatter the cultural norm of altruism and being loving and shake the very core of who they are. It is normal to hear parents tell their children, “If you do that, what will others think of us?” The shame is too much to bear so they avoid anything that will bring shame to themselves and shame to others. Filipinos try to be experts of sensing the social weather. Therefore they can constantly shift and must be alert to detect when the social mood changes. You need to be able to read people’s minds and be able to deliver what people want even before it is asked. In fact it is safe to say that people are suffering from a phobia of what will people think. They will even give up a better position, privileges and personal freedom if they think that it will elicit negative thoughts toward them. For example: My neighbor, who was a manager, lost her job and had been out of work for several years. Recently a friend helped her find a job where she worked. Because of her experience and competence she was offered a higher position, but she refused to accept the position because the friend who helped her get the job was not getting the same privilege. She preferred to stay in a lower position with less compensation because she was afraid that her co-worker would think she is “mukhang pera” (money face – greedy). Though she would imagine life would be easier if she took the offer, she is also very happy she did not because she cannot bear the pain of the thought of her friend thinking bad about her. In spite of some resistance, the audience was convinced that even though it is a cultural norm, it is not Biblical to be controlled by what others think and it is not how God intended us to live. Geri carefully made the distinction to quit being afraid of what people think and take into consideration what they think. It is important to consider what people think and how they will react. To have some fear of what others think of you is normal. However, to be driven by such fear is detrimental to your personhood and your relationship to these people. Only when your identity is firmly grounded in the love of God will you have the power to resist the temptation of getting validation of your “okayness” from the approval of other people. To become an emotionally healthy woman, there are things we do that we need to stop doing. Quitting those things that are damaging to our souls is the path to true freedom and becoming the very person God created you to be. Quitting takes a tremendous amount of courage. Only the soul whose identity is founded in the love of God will take the risk to attempt the impossible mission to quit being being afraid of what people think. For more information on The Emotionally Healthy Woman book, clink the link below:

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