Making a good impression is very important in Italian culture. And making a bad one nearly akin to disaster. It’s human nature to want to look good, and have others think well of us. And most cultures probably have some form of this. But why should we care so much what people think? And why do we follow rules just because society says we should?
Just think about a few of these rules.
A business man or minister is not properly attired without a tie.
But why should a skinny strip of fabric around the neck make a man properly attired? As far as I can see, it’s only purpose is to make him sweat and feel choked. (At least that’s what my husband tells me — he hates ties!)
Without the latest fashion a woman is not well-dressed.
It must have been the fashion manufacturers who invented this one! Because, sadly, as soon as we get the ‘perfect’ fashionable wardrobe — styles have already changed!
Gray hair is unattractive.
The practice of covering gray hair is probably, at least in part, fear-driven; we live in a world afraid of aging and death. But isn’t gray hair sometimes attractive too? (And if you’re wondering, I don’t color!)
We personally dislike neckties, but like white hair and simple wardrobes! So we follow those preferences, regardless of what society says. Obviously, it’s not wrong to wear neckties, color your hair, or have a stylish wardrobe. But isn’t it crazy to let society pressure us into it, if it’s not our thing?
One of the cultural biggies here in Italy is the fancy, formal wedding.
Some families, already struggling financially, even go into debt for them. After all, how could they present a bella figura (cut a good figure), without the 7-course restaurant dinner for their hundreds of guests? Or without the expensive gown, rented limousine, or new shoes and clothing for the entire family?
It’s really the restaurant owners who benefit. Guests sure don’t. It’s an unspoken rule (yep, those again!) that your gift to the couple will include at least enough cash to cover your meals!
Both families and guests pay dearly for this proper wedding. So why do they do it? Even those who would rather not? Because all the relatives expect it, everyone does it, and it’ll look bad if they don’t. We know families with wedding debt, even though the couple themselves didn’t even want the big wedding!
It doesn’t make sense to do or buy things we can’t afford. Yet we’ve probably all done so at times.
- Pushed by our consumerist culture we replace items that don’t need replacing.
- Or we shop even when we don’t need anything, and can’t afford to buy.
- Or we strive toward fitting in and being fashionable, even if it’s not to our preference. (And let’s be honest, definitely not necessary!)
“Not me!” you think. That’s what I thought too, before thinking it through a little more.
Do you own a flat-screen TV?
If yes, why? Was your old one broken? How wise is it to replace things that don’t need replacing? (And fill up landfills in the process?)
Do you have a Smartphone?
If yes, do you have pressing matters requiring you to always be online? (We only recently got one because Mario’s SIM wouldn’t work in any other phone.) But from our observations, most people use them to look up some odd fact while talking with others. Or to constantly check social media. But how wise is it to know the latest trivia, while forgetting to really know those we have right in front of us?
Do you feel you’ve been cheated if you don’t vacation somewhere?
Why? Is there something wrong with staying home for rest and relaxation?
We’ve got a flat screen TV. (Friends gave us their old one, when they got bigger and newer.) And we take trips, too. But we were fine with our old television. And we’re fine with simply staying home.
We try to make choices based on our own desires, possibilities, and finance. And not because “it’s the thing to do.” But because our choices count in many ways. They reinforce both our values and our faith. They show how we care for others. And they can even count toward giving us more financial tranquility and peace of mind.
In the end, our choices reflect our worldview. And indicate whether we really believe in our values, or if they’re mostly just theory.
So let me ask you one last question.
Do you feel you’re missing out when you can’t give toward missions, feeding the hungry, or clean drinking water for needy children?
Our choices indicate our worldview, how practical our Christianity is, and how much we really believe our values. What do ours say about us?