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Different countries have different cultural norms. What is appropriate in one culture may be offensive in another culture. For example, you should never touch a person’s head in Thailand because the head is considered sacred. In Portugal, you should never write anything in red ink, it is very offensive. Norms can also vary between communities in the same country or culture.  Anytime something changes in our lives such as a new job, new school, or a new stage of life, we will encounter different cultures and face challenges to our cultural norm.

As we encounter these situations, we must fight the temptation to compromise our convictions. Some of our high school graduates will be going off to schools where they will be exposed to many different ideas, behaviors, attitudes and cultural norms.  They may be challenged to abandon their beliefs and to become like everybody else. I would say to them, don’t give in. Make up your mind not to conform to other people’s moral standards because the decisions you make might greatly impact you the rest of your life.

Know your truth. The world will try to get you to adopt their view of truth. You will be pressured to conform but don’t compromise your convictions. Do not determine what is right based on cultural norms. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what others say, ultimately, what really matters is what is morally right.

However, morality is hard to define. For one person it means one thing and for another it can mean something else. Prosocial moral behavior is “a social behavior that is intended to benefit other people or society as a whole, involving caring, helping, sharing and volunteering.” In our communities of affordable housing, prosocial is the norm as we engage in the activities of helping, sharing and volunteering to care for others.

As you move forward with your life, you will be challenged to deal with the temptation of compromising your identity. The bottom line is, by what name will others know you? Whether you are a teenager, college student, graduate student or an adult, you’re going to have to make a choice of what you’re willing to be called in your culture. So take a stand and be proud of your culture. And never give up; never give up; never give up.

Chaplain Walter Ghosten

By Chaplain Ghosten