Cultural Humility vs Cultural Competence

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Grace to you and peace! I was in a recent conversation about Cultural Humility vs Cultural Competence. You may be familiar with this distinction. The latter is based on the idea that we can learn about another culture and can become knowledgeable and competent. Cultural Humility is recognizing that we cannot know everything about another culture and requires life-long learning.

We often think of culture as an ethnic or racial culture. However, we all exist in many cultures or social groups. Such groups have their own sets of norms, customs, and understandings. Such cultures may reflect race, ethnicity, geography, age, straight/LGBTQ identity, political party, urban/rural settings, and many more.

We can learn about some aspects of different cultures such as language, food, festivals, music, and dances. But there are deeper aspects of cultures that are more subtle – body language, concepts of fairness and justice, attitudes toward authority, approaches to decision-making, communication styles, etc.

Cultural humility requires life-long learning as well as critical self-reflection. It requires asking questions of others to understand their perspective and not assume that we know what it is. It also means recognizing and challenging power imbalances in order to create respect for other cultures. Cultural humility challenges our tendency toward stereotypes.

Given the diversity of the Southeast Conference and acknowledging that many of us have actually moved from other parts of the country (or Conference), approaching each other with a sense of cultural humility will deepen our relationships and strengthen the ministry we do together. A key element to remember is that it requires openness to life-long learning – which is both rewarding and exciting since we are all created in the image of God!

Blessings, Char Burch