CQ – How are we different? Part One – An Introduction to Culture

Up to this point, I have talked about what Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is, why we need it, and how to start developing it in ourselves. Once again, CQ is the capability to function effectively across various cultural contexts(national, ethnic, organizational, generational, etc.)

In my last blog, I talked about cultural humility and the need to “focus on the otherthe other person from another culture is the expert and has the answers. I am here to learn from that person, to focus on that person. I ask questions instead providing answers. It’s a lifelong process and attitude of growing instead of focus on an end product. Cultural humility encourages us to look at our own biases, to self-reflect regularly on our attitudes toward the other. I come to the other person with modesty and with a courteous respect for that person and culture.”

But where do our biases come from? Why do we have to think about the others in our life? Aren’t we all just the same? I don’t know about you, but I disagree with people. I even disagree with my husband sometimes! (GASP!) And where do those disagreements come from? I could go in to a lot of detail about that. However, I won’t today nor in the immediate future.

Instead, I want to take the time to start a series about cultural dimensions. These are areas where cultures differ. One isn’t right and the other wrong. They are just different. Before we understand cultural dimensions, though, we need to understand what culture means.

Here is a definition of culture: the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.

What kinds of things are a part of your culture? Nitza Hidalgo mentions three different levels of culture:

Concrete: surface level, food, festivals, clothes, music

Behavioral: language, gender roles, family structure, politics (how you view leadership, communication (specific or not), etc.

Symbolic: values and beliefs, religion, worldview

The iceberg is a metaphor often used to explain culture. You have probably seen this before or something similar. When we look at an iceberg related to culture, at the top of the iceberg is what we see and experience with our senses, the concrete culture. The food, clothes, music, etc. Much of the behavior we experience comes from what we cannot see, what which is just below the surface, the Behavioral Culture, what this picture calls cultural values and assumptions. Down deep, though, is the Symbolic Culture. I would add to the “individual personality” things such as our cultural rules about relationships, virtue and vice, worldview, and religious beliefs, which do indeed affect our culture. It’s the ideas, beliefs, mannerisms in our culture that “go without saying.”

As we teach our young children, there are things that we just automatically teach without realizing it is a part of our culture. We teach our 2-year-old grandson about not standing while eating and chewing with his mouth closed and other such “manners.” Those ideas become what “goes without saying” in our culture.

To understand what makes things different from us is to learn about the other person, with an attitude of cultural humility, where she or he comes from, and how those pieces of culture that are different are things we can learn from. Not judge. Learn from. And to learn from the other person, it is helpful to understand the different cultural dimensions. Next week we will start in and take one set of ideas per week.


Easter and Cultural Intelligence

He is risen!

He is risen, indeed!

The call to one another on Easter (or Resurrection Day as some of us like to say) is as ancient as the Christian religion.

Our tendency to be against one another is more ancient, since Cain and Abel.

And yet, there’s hope. He is risen! He is risen indeed!

It is because of Christ’s resurrection that we are who we are: followers of Christ. That includes being willing to learn to be culturally intelligent, to care for the people who are different from us, whether different in ethnicity, nationality, religious affiliation or none, generation or gender.

It is because of the resurrection we have the power to rise above our own selfish focus, our tendency to think our culture, our lifestyle, our language, our choices, our opinions as better than another.

Some points to remind us of events after the resurrection:

  • Matthew 28:19 – Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of ALL nations,”
  • Acts 1:8 – Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
  • Jerusalem: In Acts 2, at the time when the Holy Spirit had come upon the disciples, there were Jews from “every nation under heaven.” (vs 5) The disciples started speaking in several languages, such that people heard “each in his own native language.” (vs 8) There was not an endorsement of just one language.
  • Samaria: Acts 8:14-17, we see Jews and “despised” Samaritans praying together.
  • End of the earth: In Acts 10:9-35, we hear the struggle Peter faced when told by God to minister to those people, the Gentiles.

The Gospel was spreading as the apostles were obedient to cross cultures with the good news.refugee-1532326_1280

Because of the resurrection,

We are called as Christians to a new unity not based on our tribal allegiances. In Christ “there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free.” Instead there are those putting on “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” toward one another regardless of their cultural origins. (Colossians 3:11-14) In Christ, who is the “image of the invisible God,” we are called back to being God’s image, a people from every nation, tribe, and tongue in whom the Creator can be glimpsed.[1]

Though “we are fallen humans,” because of the resurrection we are “dying to self and being raised with Christ as we share God’s grace with others who share our condition.”[2]

  • Romans 10:12 – For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.”
  • Galatians 3:28 – “There is neither Jew nor Greek there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
  • Galatians 5:6 – “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”
  • Ephesians 3:6 – “This mystery is that the Gentiles [or any “other”] are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” [my addition]

 “Cultural intelligence is more than just a politically correct agenda for diversity and multiculturalism. Jesus’ life and death are what made it possible for us to seriously consider moving beyond the desire to love the Other and actually doing it.”[3]

He is risen!

He is risen, indeed!cross-2713356_1280




[1] Smith, D.I. & Dykstra-Pruim, P. (2016). Christians and Cultural Difference. Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin College Press.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Livermore, D.A. (2009). Cultural Intelligence: Improving your CQ to engage our multicultural world. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Culturally Intelligent Communities – Dealing with Differences, A Christian Perspective, Part Two

In my previous blog, I referred to the old phrase: “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.[1]” We talked about what are the essentials for Christians, as well as what the non-essentials might be.

And then I mentioned “Charity.” What is Charity? To review, charity is the old term for love. Here is where we get the command to love one another as he has loved us. It does not say love one another if they agree with you. Or if they look like you. Or if they have the same religion!children-2857263_1280 corrected

As Christians, we are called to love one another, but also to love our neighbor. Sometimes it is clear we are to love fellow believers. But Jesus made it clear in his parable that we often call the “Good Samaritan,” that we are to love others, even if they are different from us.

 If you look carefully at this story found in Luke 10:25-37, there are some points to note:

  • The scribe asking the questions assumed two things:
    • That being a part of the “kingdom of God” meant being Jewish (both ethnically and in obedience to the Law);
    • That loving our neighbor meant loving our fellow people of God.
  • Jesus did not tell where the stranger was from.
  • The “good guys” (the priest and the Levite) didn’t do the right thing.
  • The “bad guy” did. Why was he the “bad” guy to the “expert in the Law” asking the question? He was a (gasp) despised
  • Jesus asks, “who is the neighbor?” but doesn’t give the guy who got beat up as one of the options. Jesus calls us to BE a good neighbor. And he calls us to do this across good-samaritan-1037334_1280cultures, to reach out to those who are different from us.[2]

We must look around us. To whom should we be a neighbor? We must look within ourselves and ask, who are we called to be a neighbor to but we find it a challenge? We don’t want to be a neighbor to that person! Who is that? Prayerfully ask God to show you.

 That does not mean we have to agree. There is a lot of diversity in this world. A lot. I do not agree with my husband sometimes. (Another gasp!) But I still choose to love him. We all can learn to agree to disagree. (See my blog on agreeing to disagree and a Christian perspective on dealing with differences, part one)

Now, as Christians, where is the line for agreeing to disagree? Go back to the question of essentials. Look for areas of agreement, recognize those things in which we agree, and prayerfully discern what are not essentials that we can chose to disagree and let go of the argument.

That is how we agree to disagree and still respect and love one another with dignity.


 [1] Ross, Mark. “Often attributed to great theologians such as Augustine, it comes from an otherwise undistinguished German Lutheran theologian of the early seventeenth century, Rupertus Meldenius.” For more information, see this site.

[2] For more explanation of this parable, see David I. Smith’s Learning from the Stranger: Christian faith and cultural diversity. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Culturally Intelligent Communities – Dealing with Differences, A Christian Perspective, Part One

For those of us who are followers of Christ, our unity is in Christ. Full stop. Perhaps you have heard this old phrase: “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.[1]

  • What are the essentials for a Christian? A belief in Jesus Christ as our personal savior – faith alone; a belief and trust in the Holy Bible as our one source of Truth – Scripture alone. That’s it! Here is where we have our unity.bible-1031288_1280
  • What are the non-essentials? Things such as baptism, political parties, gun control, role of women in the church, etc. Here we can allow liberty and difference of opinion. If we are using the Scriptures as our basis for discussion, we will often come up with different interpretations and opinions. We must allow for those differences of opinions.
  • What is Charity? Charity is the old term for love. Here is where we get the command to love one another as he has loved us. It does not say love one another if they agree with you. Or if they look like you. Or if they have the same religion!

So, how do we do this? First, we can know there is Truth. True objective absolute truth. In our culture, that idea is not popular. However, we can and should encourage and remind one another that there IS Truth. How do we know that? We have the Bible that tells us of a God that is beyond our earthly knowledge, that is transcendent and other-worldly. HE has established Truth. It is not dependent on our experiences, emotions, “facts,” nor culture. Those all can change. But God. Does. Not. Change! There is Truth and we can know it.

However, and this is the BIG however. We are fallen people. None of us can perfectly understand Truth or interpret the Bible. We learn things and then later learn we (or the pastor or teacher or ???) were wrong. (Gasp!) The Bible tells us our hearts are “deceitfully wicked.” We want to convince ourselves all the time that we have it right, that we interpret the Bible correctly, that we know God’s mind. And those people don’t!

How absurd! How arrogant!

We must always, always relate to Scripture and the people around us with humility. We might get things wrong. We might interpret something differently than someone else and find out they were right. Or maybe they were wrong, and we were right. When will we find out? In heaven. Perhaps sooner, but maybe not before then.

In relating to the people in our lives with whom we disagree, we must always have a spirit of humility. We must recognize our propensity to get things wrong.

Also, we must always treat one another with respect and dignity. Though I may disagree with you, I still recognize God’s image in you. You are valuable. You are loved. You are human. You are worthy of my respect and dignity and kindness.

We must stop. Stop denigrating someone when they do not agree with us. Stop complaining that they are doing something we do not like.* Stop. Just stop. Do not say anything if it cannot be respectful, full of dignity toward other people. Just stop.

Let yourself be challenged this week to show unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and charity to all.


*Complaining about something we do not like is not the same as speaking out against evil, such as sexual and/or child abuse.

[1] Ross, Mark. “Often attributed to great theologians such as Augustine, it comes from an otherwise undistinguished German Lutheran theologian of the early seventeenth century, Rupertus Meldenius.” For more information, see this site.

Culturally Intelligent Communities – Dealing with Differences – Agreeing to Disagree

When do we strive for unity? And when do we need to agree to disagree?

Because we are diverse, and because unity is different parts being combined into a unified whole (see the March 9 blog on Unity), we have a choice.

  • Do we just conduct our lives living as separate people, not connecting, not living in community where we care for one another and really communicate?disagree-1099579_1280


  • Do we choose to live in community, striving for a unity in the midst of diverse people?

If we do not choose to live in community, by default, we choose to live as individuals all doing our own thing.

The challenge, however, is that as soon as we choose to be in community, there will be diversity, whether of race, nationality, religion, opinions about politics or gender, and generations.

When I got married, there was a choice to start our family, a new community. Right from the start, two people living together with different opinions. Yes, we were the same race, same religion, same generation. But we were two different people. Different personalities (extrovert vs introvert). Different family upbringing (somewhat peaceful vs sparks flying often). Different birth order (#2 of 4 vs #5 of 5). Different regional backgrounds (suburb vs farm/small town). This impacted how we related to one another. And there were indeed disagreements for things as basic as what time should we arrive at church.argument-238529_1280

If this is just two people, what happens when you add more people? The more people you add to the community, the more likelihood of differences showing up. Diversity is inevitable. Thus, living in community is messy.

In the Bible, there is a verse that says, “Without oxen, the stable stays clean.” (NLT) If you don’t have oxen in your stables, there will be no dung. If you don’t have people, you don’t have the messiness of life. But we can’t live that way, without people.

We must make a choice to live in community, to be with people. And to be with people calls us to aim for unity within the diversity. With the messiness in a diverse group of people comes the need to learn the art of compromise, learning to find a middle ground. But what if we have completely different ideas or opinions on something? We must learn to agree to disagree.

How does one do that?

  • First, remind yourself:
    • that the other person is a fellow human, deserving respect and dignity and kindness, even if they disagree with you!
    • that often people have a lot in common even amid diversity. Ask yourself, what do you have in common with this person? Sometimes people are heading toward the same goal but with different means.
  • Secondly, get some perspective. Realize that unless it is a life and death situation, who wins an argument will not be important 10 years from now. No one will remember.
  • Thirdly, let it go. It won’t help you nor the other person to come out on top. If you are arguing about religion or football teams, trying to change the other person’s opinion will do no good. For them or for you.

Share opinions. Don’t be afraid of discussing differences. But respect one another in the process. And agree in the end to disagree.handshake-4040911_1280

Culturally Intelligent Communities – Dealing with Differences – Diversity

NOTE: I wrote this blog a week before the New Zealand terror attack. As I post it, I am grieving the loss of life and senseless, cold-hearted killing that happened. The importance of understanding the idea of diversity is NOT about saying one group is better than another. Let me be blunt: white supremacy is NOT right nor is it biblical. White people are never better than others of different colors. I could go on, but I will let you read the original blog. Let me know what you think.

 If we don’t have to agree to be unified (see last week’s blog), what is diversity, then? If unity is putting together different parts to make a whole, we need to understand “different” – diversity. What is diversity and is it a good thing?

Here are some definitions[1]:

  • the state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness
  • variety; multiformity
  • the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc.
  • a point of difference

In the Merriam-Webster[2] dictionary, we find diversity to be:

  • the condition of having or being composed of differing elementsVARIETY

Variety. Difference. There is a lot of variety and difference in this world. However, we must be careful with our definition of diversity. David Livermore of the Cultural Intelligence Center says, “Diversity is sometimes used to broadly include any kind of difference, such as difference in personality, skills, working styles, tenure, and thinking. But if diversity includes everything it end up meaning nothing.”[3] (Livermore, 8)

I have heard people refer to “diversity fatigue” where we are just tired of talking about it. Most companies and schools now require “diversity training” which often ends up being a “let’s all love one another and be happy” kind of training. And then there are those who talk about the word “diversity” having been hijacked and ineffective in talking about the hard issues of differences.

And yet, this world is diverse. We do have differing opinions and perspectives. There are different nationalities and ethnicities and religions and cultures. Is that a bad thing?

I would contend that the diversity of this world is a very good thing and we should not fear differences. Wouldn’t life be boring if we all looked the same, dressed the same? Wouldn’t this world be a dull place if the earth had the same climate and geography everywhere? How would we grow in knowledge if we didn’t learn from others who think differently? How can we expand our horizons and thoughts if we don’t rub shoulders with and talk with people who are different from us? Differences, diversity can be a very good thing.woman-3365370_640

If we are going to grow and learn and celebrate diversity, let’s start using the diversity we have for strength. Studies show that homogeneous teams are more innovative than diverse teams if the diverse teams have not been trained to be culturally sensitive, to have what we call “Cultural Intelligence” or “CQ.” However, “when used strategically, diversity is one of the greatest resources for coming up with innovative solutions, which in turn leads to economic benefits.” (Livermore, 2)

To benefit from diversity, then, requires an effort to develop our CQ, our cultural intelligence, to listen and learn from those who have different opinions from us, who think differently from us.

[1] https://www.dictionary.com/browse/diversity?s=t

[2] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diversity

[3] Livermore, D. (2016). Driven by Difference: How great companies fuel innovation through diversity. New York, NY: AMACOM

Culturally Intelligent Communities – How do we get there?

There is nothing easy about developing into Culturally Intelligent Communities. However, we can start with five not-so-easy but important steps.

First, we must have the DRIVE, the motivation, to grow and learn. Do we WANT our community to be a thriving, healthy, and safe environment where we can all flourish, using our differences for strength? Are we seeing those around us in need? Are we willing to do the work of becoming culturally intelligent?

Secondly, we need to start thinking with CULTURAL HUMILITY. Are we ready to listen to those who think or act or look differently than us? Are we willing to show respect and honor others’ dignity? Are we willing to think of others more positively? In Philippians 2:3-4, we read:

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Third, once we have drive/motivation and cultural humility, we need to grow in our KNOWLEDGE of the “others” around us. Are we ready to ask good questions to truly learn about those around us who may be or look different? Or act or think differently? Who are those in our community that are different from us? What do we need to learn about them to help us gain empathy and understanding for them?

Fourth, as individuals and as a community, our STRATEGY to increase our knowledge needs to be established and expanded. What do we need to do to grow our knowledge of those in our communities who are different from us? And what are our hidden biases that may be contributing to the lack of understanding on our part?

And fifth, ACTION. We cannot take in information without action. We are created to respond to learning and knowledge by actually doing something to reach out to others. It is also taking time to intentionally think through our reactions to those around us, what our responses might be and how to change them (our responses) so we are more supportive to the others we are reaching out to.

This short video shows four of the five steps I have just laid out from a little different angle and may be helpful for you.

Culturally Intelligent Communities

What are “Culturally Intelligent Communities?” What in the world are you talking about? Well, let me explain, starting with some definitions.

Culturally – an adjective that describes things related to culture. But what is culture? Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, including language, religion, food, social habits (customs) and behaviors, music and arts, achievements. The group can be a specific nation, people, or other social group, including different generations within a people group.

Intelligent – also an adjective describing our ability to learn and grow. Multiple Intelligence theory (see Garnder and others) says each of us has different ways we are intelligent or gifted: rationally (use of words), physically, artistically, relating to people, understanding nature, etc.teacher-359311_640 with credit

Putting those two words together, then, Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is the capability to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations.

 Communities – The people we are in contact with – our family, neighborhoods, churches and other religious organizations, schools, who we see at stores, etc.

So…. A Culturally Intelligent Community is one where the people have the capability to relate to one another effectively, no matter how diverse it is.

 Why do we need CQ (Cultural Intelligence)? John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle have said, “The modern world is filled with strife between people groups, from the streets of Palestine to the tensions between North and South Korea to the conflict between the Kurds and the Turks. In the recent past, racial conflict in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur (Sudan) resulted in unspeakable violence and genocide. Chechnya. France. India. Sri Lanka. Russia. Bolivia. Belgium. Great Britain. Racial strife is found in nearly every country on earth.”[1] And that is just racial tension!

We also struggle with generational differences, religious tensions, gender issues, and the clamor in politics (in the West) is deafening! People are critical of anyone who does not agree with them. If you are not FOR me, you MUST be against me!

Here is a little secret: We live in a diverse world. And yet, for some reason, we expect smartphone-1445489_640everyone to think the same way, act the same way, live the same way. And we are taken by surprise when “others” DON’T. And then we feel threatened by those who think differently.

And yet, hasn’t it been when I have been challenged that I grow? That I am forced to think about something differently that my world expands even a little? That when I learn the feelings of the other person, that I grow in empathy?

 Why can’t we build communities that use our diversity for strength? Why not recognize that when we are working together, we grow personally and as a community to become stronger?

 That, my friends, is what Culturally Intelligent Communities is all about.

[1] Stonestreet, J. & Kunkle, B. (2017). A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World. (pp. 279-280). Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook.