Our worldview determines how we treat the people around us and how we make sense of our life. We see the same things, the same colors, the same natural phenomena, but all of us experience these in different ways, and therefore we all understand their meaning in very different ways. Our grasp of the world depends on factors of which we are often unaware.
The values we adopted in our family, the good-night stories that our grandparents read to us, things we learned at school, the accepted attitudes to fit in and belong to a group, all play a part in the forming of our worldview. That’s why these values are so precious to us, because all of these factors shaped us, consciously and subconsciously, throughout the years. It’s sometimes difficult to accept that these values are not supported by the facts, and that is why we are more likely to toss facts aside to continue believing in our worldview.
When worldviews collide
An unexpected turn of events surrounding Brexit and the 2016 presidential election in the United States vividly illustrates what happens when two or more worldviews collide. The voice of an older and whiter generation called for a more conservative approach to society, while the younger more culturally diverse generation wanted to expand the liberal values they had come to accept. Although the Brexit and the US election are far more complicated than just a generational or cultural divide, they show that competing worldviews can create a deep division within a society.
History teaches us that some worldviews can be beneficial for a privileged few, but dangerous for the majority of the people. Some views of the world center on an idea that all people are not equal, that they don’t deserve the same rights and privileges only because they have a different skin color or they believe in a different God, or they belong to the wrong ethnicity or social class. Worldviews also include beliefs about political and economic philosophies like socialism and capitalism. A clash of worldviews affects everything: the media, education, religion, government, the arts, entertainment, philanthropy and business strategy.
How do we decide who gets to decide?
Different worldviews come to various conclusions about how to answer vital questions such as: Who has a legitimate voice within society? What structures, systems, and moral values should govern the society? Who has protected rights, deserves corrective remedies, enjoys special privileges? Our answers to such questions come from our worldview, which often operates in the background and out of site.
Are you realistic about what it means to live in a world where everyone is entitled to his or her perception of the world? Do you run into colleagues, family, friends and relatives who are dogmatic in their belief that their view should be dominant? People within societies that believe their worldview is the only correct one often advocate a range of consequences such as demonization, exclusion, and repression to be directed toward their adversaries or “enemies” (those who disagree with their views). A society that remains on the warpath divided against itself risks social instability and corrosive dysfunctionality. Do you see any signs of those symptoms within our society?
Become a responsible owner of your worldview
Regardless of your origin, social class, faith, profession, political ideology or any other identity- defining factors, you are ultimately responsible for your worldview. Become a skilled owner of your worldview by asking yourself some of these questions:
- Have you spent the time to understand and ask how you arrived at your world view? Are you sure that you’re not operating on autopilot?
- Are you making conscious choices about the ideas that drive your actions, or are you a pawn in someone else’s master worldview game?
- Can you accurately assess the worldviews operating within your network of stakeholders at work and in communities?
These are important questions to continuously ask yourself, especially during a time of deep conflict and transformation within society.
A silver lining
The collision of competing worldviews around the world can be positive because if offers an opportunity for the willing to challenge who we are as individuals, organizations, communities and as nations and then adjust our expectations and decisions. Challenging ourselves means that conflicts between competing worldviews don’t have to lead to a breakdown of social stability.
Does your worldview include the importance of shared values?
Civil society cannot function unless the majority of its citizens have an abiding belief that regardless of our worldview we need to commit to honor and protect critical shared values. The values we need to focus on in right now include the values of compromise, collaboration, and empathy…values that reinforce our shared humanity. Where can you act on these values in your professional and community life?