The Words the Hose Family

Understanding East/West Relationships

Takeko Hose
June 1987
Home church IW for the New York region
Interviewed by Angelika SeIle

Rev. and Mrs. David Hose

When I first came to America my greatest problem, as it is for many Orientals, was the language barrier. Even though I studied English in school, I couldn't really speak it. This struggle was very intense. I was unable to understand others or make myself understood, and it was very frustrating because I wanted to convey my thoughts, I wanted to convey the Principle. Often Orientals are reluctant to admit they don't understand, so they will just smile or display an indecisive attitude. Americans think, "They just don't know how to say yes or no clearly."

Americans like everything to be clearly and openly expressed. Oriental culture is very different. There is a long tradition of education in the Orient against the free expression of emotions, especially anger or resentment. It is very rare that someone would come up to you and say, "I feel angry about what you did." Americans are more likely to do that because honesty or frankness is considered a virtue. But in the East, we consider the display of such emotion as immature and childish.

Reading between the Lines

This difference should be understood in a historical perspective. In Japan, the way of the samurai, or warrior, was that of complete self-control. If a samurai felt fear, sorrow, or even joy, he could not express it. He believed that if he did show these emotions, he would lose control of himself and the respect of others. He would be considered foolish, not deep or serious. Because of this tradition, Orientals value non-verbal communication. The listener always has to read between the lines of what is said. The shared cultural assumptions of both speaker and listener allow the listener to fill in the gaps.

But here in America, people take what you say at face value. When I first came to America, I often needed to get a ride from a brother in the center who drove a car. But I didn't want to tell him outright that I needed a ride because I recognized that he might be busy with other matters. Once he asked me if I needed a ride, so I just said, "No, its okay." He assumed that I meant exactly what I said and left without me. Fortunately, I was able to go in another car because I needed to get somewhere. Later this brother found out that I had actually needed a ride and got angry with me. He said, "Why didn't you say so?" I felt that if he had been more sensitive, he would have perceived that I was only hesitating because I didn't want to cause trouble. He could have understood that and said, "It's no trouble for me Then I would have said, "Oh, in that case, I'll take the ride

This is a very common kind of misunderstanding. Orientals are always getting into trouble in relationships with Westerners because they don't express themselves enough. Westerners get into trouble because they say too much and express too much emotion.

I think if you are raised in the Orient or live there long enough, you will naturally learn how to perceive what the other person means. It just becomes common sense. For those who know one another very well, like a parent and child, few words are necessary. Instead, it is action that is honored. Orientals tend to admire the person with a "heavy mouth" -- one who says little but does much. They often see Westerners who speak a lot as irresponsible and weak. In a close relationship between Orientals, very little is said, but there is always something quietly going on. Often in East-West marriages, the Western partner needs to see the expression of emotion, appreciation, and praise far more than the Eastern spouse does. Orientals commonly have difficulty in living up to these needs.

A Sign of Deep Concern

This problem is especially acute in the relationships between Oriental leaders and American members. I can think of one time when an American brother, who had given a report to an Oriental leader, became upset when his leader made no response. To this brother, the lack of any expression of appreciation or approval meant disapproval or judgment. In contrast, Orientals would take this to mean that the leader was quietly approving but was withholding praise to help the member grow. But because of their different cultures, Western members often feel resentful and wonder, "Does my leader care about me? Is he just using me?"

I always try to encourage the leaders I know to try to express a little bit more appreciation. Even a simple "thank you" is so valuable.

I believe the root of this difficulty lies in the difference between parent- child relationships in the two cultures. In the Orient there is a very close and secure bond between parent and child. Because of this, the child knows that when his parent scolds him, it doesn't mean complete disapproval or rejection. In that culture, scolding is a sign of deep concern and care. It is to encourage the child to do even better. The same is true between brothers and sisters; they are often strong with one another out of a protective and caring heart. That's why some Oriental leaders in our church assume that when they scold a member strongly, the member will try harder. But sometimes after a severe scolding, a Western member may feel like changing missions or even leaving the movement.

In the West, parents treat their children from a very young age as individuals; therefore, respect, personal approval, and praise are very important to them. Children can easily interpret disapproval of their actions as total personal rejection. I think the Christian concept of guilt, which Western children acquire early, leads them to believe that something is wrong with them, that they don't deserve to be loved.

Oriental leaders are surprised and hurt by this because they commit themselves right away to members as though they were their own brothers and sisters. They assume the unbreakable bond that comes with that commitment is already there. But Westerners don't assume this automatically. They have a deep yearning to see love and approval first demonstrated. If it isn't, they may become resentful. Resentment is not hate or anger but the disappointed desire to be loved.

Respect for Elders

Another difference between the cultures is the Oriental respect for one's elders. In this Christian culture, all people are considered equal before God. But in Japan and Korea, people don't think in terms of equality. Orientals always want to know their proper position: Who is my superior? To whom do I owe respect and loyalty? Who is below me? Who is to my right and to my left? We feel that only by knowing these things can we relate properly and harmoniously.

Whenever I go to East Garden, I always see who is my elder and then find my proper place. If any of the 36 Couples are present, they automatically have the right to the seats closest to Father and Mother. Then come the 72 Couples, the 124, and so on. In the Orient we never take the best seat because we are waiting for someone who is older to take that seat. Even if an elder person didn't accomplish anything in his life, we automatically respect his position.

In the West, particularly in America, people tend to be wary of hierarchical structure. Respect has to be earned here; it is not given automatically.

In Oriental classrooms, students listen, repeat, and memorize. Oriental education teaches respect for the authority of the teacher, who is the elder. To ask questions of one's teacher is considered disrespectful. In Western schools, students who raise their hand to question their teacher are praised. They are encouraged to think critically. It is hard for Orientals to learn the Western methods of critical analysis. In the church, sometimes our seminary graduates, who have been trained to think critically, have conflicts with Oriental leaders. They are often seen by the leaders as disrespectful, individualistic, or selfish because they have many questions and opinions. Actually, I feel that both sides mean well but misunderstand each other because of these cultural differences.

The importance of the vertical relationship of younger to elder, so important and natural to Orientals, is difficult for Westerners to grasp. In America, friendship -- a relationship of equals -- is valued. I realize that it is difficult for many Americans to share everything with their Abel figure. Instead, they like to seek help or love through close horizontal relationships. Orientals see the vertical connection as more important; they are taught from infancy that solutions and love come through the elder, in the parental position.

The traditional Oriental practice of ancestor reverence or worship demonstrates the importance of this vertical connection. Treating my ancestors as if they were alive and present is a very meaningful part of my life. I realize that whatever I am, whatever good I have done, is due to my ancestors' merit. That's why the spirit world and its role in my life is so real and powerful for me. Whenever I am feeling discouraged, I think about my grandmother who is in the spirit world. Then I can't do anything selfish because I know it would hurt her. Thinking about her love keeps me going. This awareness of my life being linked to so many others, knowing that both my ancestors and my descendants are depending on me, gives me power to go beyond my own limitations. Without this awareness, I would be left with only my own power, which is simply not enough.

Both Spirit and Wisdom

I see another difference between East and West in the way members respond to directions. When a leader says, "This must be done Westerners first ask questions about methods and details, but Orientals just jump right in. For instance, if the direction is "Fundraise," the Western member would want to investigate the best locations and make concrete plans to discover the most effective way of doing it. Orientals think this is a waste of time. Their thinking is "Pioneer! Challenge! Go everywhere! Try everything!"

I believe both ways have value and are important. One supplies the spirit and drive, the other the practical wisdom. But it is very hard to combine them. When an Oriental elder gives a direction and the members want to discuss the step-by-step methods, the elder may feel this is disrespectful, even insulting.

My husband David explains this kind of misunderstanding with the analogy of throwing a ball. He says that in the Orient, if the ball, the substance or the message, is good, then it doesn't matter how you throw it. But in the West, how the ball is thrown, how the message is communicated, is of equal value to the message itself. So the Oriental may say, "The ball is good. Why didn't you catch it?" The Westerner will answer, "Because you didn't throw it weir

On the other hand, I've noticed that some Oriental leaders will sometimes reject the good idea of an enthusiastic member if he did not show the proper kind of respect or speak in the proper way. They reject a good ball because it was thrown poorly. What many people could offer to God's providence is lost in this way. Of course, some members are immature, but we must all learn to be a little more flexible and embracing, to look beyond externals into the heart of members.

Confidence in Father's Love

What can make a difference in relationships is having the confidence that you are loved. If you have confidence in Father's love, you can be glad when he scolds you; he is showing you that he feels free to let out his emotions and frustrations. He cannot do that with people who do not trust his love; they would feel that he hates them. But because he knows your heart, he can feel quite free.

I knew one brother on the staff at East Garden who always accompanied Mother everywhere. On one shopping trip he felt a little jealous and left out, wishing the clothes Mother was buying for a guest were for him. This brother didn't realize that True Parents were giving him a greater gift than clothes; Father and Mother were treating him as a member of their own family. In effect, True Parents were saying to him, "Don't separate your heart from ours as if you were a guest. You are not a guest. You are a part of us. We have not forgotten you, but let's give together." By comparing how much others receive, we become unable to realize that we are loved.

We have to understand the heart and attitude of the true servant. When I was supervising the servers for True Parents' table at Hyun Jin Nim's Holy Wedding, I said to them, "Please make yourself invisible I explained to them that this meant they should try not to attract attention to themselves, either by their clothes or by their actions. "True Parents have so many people to take care off' I told them, "so please don't add to their burden by wanting attention or wanting to be taken care of." If we are confident of True Parents' love, we can be happy to be invisible.

This virtue of putting others first, of serving, is very important in Oriental culture. This leads to misunderstandings in many East-West marriages. Orientals almost never speak about their own feelings; rather, they talk about the providence, their mission, etc. The Western partner is often frustrated by this because he wants to know what his partner really feels and thinks and wants to share his own thoughts and feelings. The Oriental may see his spouse as selfish and the Westerner may see his spouse as cold and unloving. I know many problems have resulted from this cultural difference.

David and I have discovered through long experience that the key is communication. Sometimes we have to sit down and explain to each other why we said or did something. We have to try to understand the other's viewpoint. When conflict or misunderstanding arises, I think both sides have to remain connected and keep communicating until there is understanding. Without that commitment, the conflict will just get worse.

In understanding East-West relationships, it's good to remember that Father never said Eastern culture was superior to Western culture or vice versa. Instead, everybody has to learn Heavenly culture from our True Parents.

Members from Japan and other nations who visit America have an incredible opportunity to become citizens of the world, people with an international mind. My husband often says that, essentially, what divides us is not so much culture, but fallen nature. To solve the so-called East-West problem, I believe both sides need to put aside their arrogance and be open-minded and humble enough to learn from each other. The more we know about each other, the more we can love. To know is to love. I know this is a long process. Perhaps it will take many generations for all cultures to be harmonized and for the new culture, based on Heavenly tradition, to be fully manifested. 

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