Soul Food 4 U

It addresses itself to every day issues of life from a Christian perspective. You'll be challenged. You'll be rebuked. You'll be encouraged. You'll grow.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

THE POWER DISTANCE PARADIGM

09 June 2006

REFLECTIONS:

There never has been, there isn't now, and there never will be, any race of people on earth fit to serve as masters over their fellow men (Franklin Roosevelt).

Human history does not always unfold like a mathematical calculation on the principle of 2+2=4. Sometimes 2+2 =5 or -3 (Winston Churchill).

Sometimes our parents love us so much that they cripple us indirectly.

When you do for others what they can do for themselves, you make them emotional cripples.

TEXT:

Rom 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. NIV

The Creation story as explained in Genesis chapter one and two describes human beings that enjoyed freedom as they did not seem to have had power struggles. It seems one difficulty caused by the fall is our inability to find the roles suitable for each person. In roles where fewer environments in which everything is equal with no distinction that identifies how people relate to one another, chaos result as life becomes unpredictable. As happens, sometimes as we try to solve one problem we create another one, so the rules meant to clarify and ease life of togetherness can also stifle or suppress. It is a philosopher who said that man is born free but is everywhere bound up in chains. History tells us of a people that became extinct and even today there are tribes whose population has so much shrinked so that they cannot last another generation and all this is because of rules that they came up with. Any man-made rules, even when the people are religious, should be regularly examined against God's written word. It is wisdom to have opportunities to ask ourselves why we do what we do and whether what we are doing is bringing out of us the very best that God created us to be. This is particularly necessary for those of us who are Light and Salt of the world, a world that is multiplying vices at a very fast rate. We need to examine the hidden programs that govern our behaviour and influence how we interpret the occurrences of life.

One key concept that we need to critically examine is that of power. Geert Hofstede who has done some research on what he calls the "software of the mind and the inner programming" has described two extremes of usage of power among cultures and organisations. There are large power distance cultures and low power distance cultures. Power distance, according to Hofstede, is the extent to which members of institutions and organisations that do not have power expect and accept that power is not equally divided. Cultures where the distance between the most powerful and the rest is large are said to have high power distance. The powerful have power, wealth and status and they usually expect those who are subordinates to do nothing without prior permission from their superiors. In high power distance cultures people abide by rules of behaviour and use titles and forms of address that express the differences between the powerful and the powerless. In such cultures the employees/students/ congregants/family members are afraid to voice their view for that is considered disrespectful. In large power distance cultures the less powerful are not expected to have independent minds, they are looked after and not expected to experiment for themselves. The teacher/father/manager/pastor/prefect/aged is held in high esteem and is not expected to be questioned. Those with power tend to be poor listeners, evade responsibility, are petty and concerned about trivialities, demeaning, disrespectful, and not consistent. Keeping distance between the ruling and the ruled is considered respectful. Does this sound familiar? It is legal incubation of ignorance. Any creative idea or alternative view is regarded as disrespect of those in authority.

In communities where there is large power distance patterns people tend to be dependent on their seniors. The employees, the students, wives, children, members of a congregation, younger brothers and sisters and all the ordinary are considered good people when they do what they are told by those who by virtue of their status just happen to know. Large power distance is one of the root causes of stagnation to spiritual as well as social economic growth. People in power get deceived in thinking that people and programs are overwhelmingly dependent on them. They get a feeling that without them everything would disintegrate. Some arrogance that make the ones in power treat others like a bunch of babies. The tendency to manipulate, push, threaten, control while doing whatever it takes to boost the power image that pollutes the atmosphere with distrust, hatred, fear, mediocrity etc comes into vogue. That may explain the feuding among the believers, power politics, sarcasm and disappointments that are hidden behind a cover-up of holiness. The vision of the institution, family or church is lost because all attention is directed in observing power scales. People live by shallow, unexamined values and genuine fellowship is not possible. People depend on the program structure instead of focusing on the Lord or the reason for their existence.

In low distance cultures people respect one another, listen to each other and self discovery is encouraged. Discussions are held and the power lies with the people. Cultures' beliefs regarding power tend to sway on some direction. These external organisational structures get internalised and so become normal, legitimate or common sense beliefs. Once large power distance is accepted as normal, traversing the power gap upwards is defined as success while individual gifts and organisations/churches mission are lost. The tragedy is that people do not identify challenges created by large power distance because it is acceptable and therefore tolerable. That remains a hidden belief that impedes and slows down any possibility of change.

As Christians our view and usage of power should be like our Lord Jesus Christ who left heaven to come and live with the ordinary. Jesus Christ dignified people even those who had no defence or anything to cover their nakedness like the woman caught in the act (John 8). He touched children even though the culture in which he lived considered it as lowering himself (Matthew 19:13-15), walked on the paths where the blind were, saw mourners as they went to bury the only son of a widowed woman. Our example and the one we serve did not allow himself to be held up by cultural structures that separated the server from the served. Just as Christ taught that it is prudent to have new wine in new skin (Matthew 9:17), we cannot propagate the life saving faith using cultural forms that negate it. Structures that make people compare and devalue some functions of the members of the body of Christ reveals that we do not understand what it means to be one body. Every one of us is needed, the foot, the eye, the hand, etc. We have different functions but each one is very useful.1 Corinthians 12:12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.

As a Christian in the position that God has given you, encourage structures that facilitate building up of the others to be who God made them to be. Make it your aim to deposit love, trust, and hope as you refill yourself from the one who gives living water. Our power should be from continued in-filling of the Holy spirit and cleansing of mind by the word of God and that we be pre-disposed to what we can do for others, not what they can do for us. Remember that to as many as received Jesus, those who believed in his name, he gave them power to become the children of God (John 1:12) and that the power of the Holy Spirit equips the recipients to be witnesses of Christ. If you have power to be a child of God and be his witness then you do not have to be riding on people, controlling God's image-bearers with the excuse that we have always done it this way. You are a new creation and so historical trends that are not motivated by the word of God should be handled with care. Bringing our beliefs regarding power to conscious minds, examining and replacing it with what the Bible teaches, facilitates us to prepare as the bride of Christ.

Africa is stagnated by large power distance leaders in the families, schools, churches and the institutions. We Christians should not blindly use cultural forms and structures that hinder us from being who we are meant to be. Power distance may be necessary for order and organisation but not for self definition and inner motivation. There is a lot of pressure and tension as people struggle to serve Christ identifying themselves with status symbols and titles which is a subtle way of keeping large power distance. Spirit-filled, Bible-believing Christians are dynamic, radiating warmth of Christ in genuine relationships with people, adding value to people so that serving Christ is natural. There is need to critically examine our view of power for that may be what is hindering the mind that was in Christ Jesus to be in us so that his kingdom can flow through us. Those whose concept of self has been mis-shaped need to examine their beliefs. Those who feel like they do not have what it takes to be all that God intended them to be should trace the root cause of that belief, examine it and replace it with what the Bible says. Those whose image is deformed because of their societal/cultural placements (even in Church and Church organisation), need to examine those beliefs, repent and replace them with Biblical truth. That is the beginning of being light in our nations as we get our power from the one who said that all authority in heaven and earth was given to him.

Think about what Maria Montessori says about servants and masters;

Our servants do not depend on us, rather we depend upon them . . . very often we believe that we are independent because no one commands us and we command others. But a master who has need for a servant by this very fact indicates his own inferiority. A paralytic who cannot raise his shoes because of his infirmities and a prince who cannot lift them because of social conventions are practically in the same condition.

MAY THE KINGDOM OF GOD FLOW INTO US AND THROUGH US INTO THE WORLD.