Bernie Anderson
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the blog

Current musings, whatever they may be. 

Diversity Is Outsight

One of the greatest gratifications I’ve had in my single, wild life is the privilege to live and interact cross-culturally. The lessons learned about self, life, and the world far exceeds any of the minor (well, sometimes major) inconveniences of living in a foreign place.

This is how I learned one of my most devastating lessons of self-awareness.

I walked into my office one day and two of the local staff members were having a conversation. I understood enough language to strategically eavesdrop. They were discussing the foreign (i.e., American) staff which particularly caught my attention.

Realizing I was in the room, one staff member (who remains one of my best friends) turned to me and asked this questions:

Why do Americans think we are not capable of doing anything for ourselves?

Whoa.

As I let the words translate into English and sink into my soul, I realized this was one the most significant questions I’d been asked in my eight years living cross-culturally. I still think about that question a lot.

Westerners tend to dominate and control their aid and service, to the point of belittlement and even dehumanization. And, because of good intentions, we never know it.

Outsight is essential. Insight would never allow most to see what my friend felt. We’re just not that self-aware.

The outsight I received that day changed my life.

You don’t have to live in another country to practice this. Globalization is - well - a global phenomenon. Seek outsight from a culture that is not your own. And you likely won’t have to look any further than your own neighborhood. Ask honest questions of people who don’t share your ethnicity, religion, nationality, or values.

Not only will this give you an unprecedented understanding of the world around you, but you might also make friends with folks who are not like you.

And there may be nothing richer and of more value than that.