Understanding Worldviews

Have you ever been misunderstood or judged by someone who doesn’t know you? Someone who has never taken the time to talk to you and hear your side of a story? I sure have. And I’m sure you have too.

Even children understand how unfair it is if a parent only listens to one side of an argument between siblings, and then disciplines based on that one view.

A person’s worldview is the way they see and understand the world, especially regarding issues such as politics, philosophy, and religion.

Everyone has a different worldview.

Understanding someone’s worldview is key to knowing them on a personal level and in solving issues in our homes, country and the world.

For years my personal worldview was through the lens of my white, middle class, Christian upbringing. Over time, through travelling the world and meeting people from various cultures, I developed an appreciation and understanding of other worldviews.

Now, whenever I hear of difficulties between people, I try to look at the worldview of both sides before forming an opinion. I look at their history and the current situation. Whenever possible, I speak with someone on each side to hear their story. It takes time but it is truly worth the effort.

Would you like to try an exercise, which helps see the world from a different lens, to see if it makes a difference?

Please join me. It will take about 15-20 minutes. If you are not interested or don’t have the time, thank you for reading this far. I hope you come back to give it a try!

If you are ready… let’s get started!

Worldview Exercise

This month we celebrate National Indigenous History Month to honour the history, heritage and diversity of Indigenous peoples in Canada. So let’s explore the worldview of an Indigenous person in our country.

Step One:

Imagine it is the year 1260 and you live on Turtle Island (what is now North America). Your world would look something like this. Take a look around.

Step Two:

Choose an area from the map above and imagine that is your home. In your mind’s eye, see your family around you. See the elders, hunters or fishermen, medicine people and artists. Children are playing and women are preparing food. A young couple is sneaking a kiss behind a long house, and the hunters are bravely heading out.

Take another look at the map to see who your neighbours are. Some may be your competitors for land or limited resources. Others are the people with whom you trade food, tools and art. Imagine interacting with them.

Finally, imagine it is night time and you are sitting around a fire listening to an Elder sharing stories of your ancestors. There are so many stories! After all, you have lived here for over 14,000 years.

Step Three:

Many years go by and it is now 1668. You are the many times great-grandchild of that original Indigenous person you imagined. Your family is still living on the land – hunting, trading, making art, dancing and telling stories.

From that perspective, please watch this historical video of Europeans coming to the Americas. Think about how you feel at each step.

European conquest of the Americas – summary since mid-15th century

Step Four:

Time goes by and it is now 1878. You are the many times great-grandchild of that original Indigenous person.

Many years ago, your neighbouring tribe welcomed the new people with pale skin, helping them to survive the cold winter months. Now that tribe has been nearly wiped out due to smallpox disease.

Your tribe welcomed the new people too. Your ancestors traded with them for many years and life was good. Then more and more people came. The buffalo were wiped out. Your children were hungry. Your elders could see that things needed to change, so they agreed to share the land with the pale people and make Treaties in good faith so all would prosper.

You agreed to learn a new way to live, but now the pale people say you must stay on the reserve and not leave without their permission. You are no longer allowed to hunt on the land where your ancestors lived and hunted for thousands of years. You are told that you must not speak your language or wear your traditional clothes. Your children are taken from you to go to residential schools for months and sometimes years. They are treated very badly. Many die.

Please take a few minutes to think about this and how it makes you feel.

Step Five:

It is now 1976. You are the great-grandchild of the Indigenous person who was forced to live on the reserve. You still live on that same land although now (since 1940) you are free to leave without permission.

Whenever you can, you visit your grandmother and sit with her. She is very quiet. The pain of enduring sexual abuse when she was seven years old, and from seeing her young friend die from repeated beatings, stay with her a long time. Nightmares from the residential school continually haunt her.

You spend time with your mother as she struggles with alcoholism, trying to hide the pain of losing her children to the Sixties Scoop. You are lucky they didn’t take you too.

Now your cousin has gone missing. Family and friends are searching everywhere. The police won’t help – they say she will just turn up. Everyone is worried for her safety.

Step Six:

It is now 2020 and you are the current descendant of the original Indigenous person you imagined. You are determined to heal from the painful history of your family over the last 150 years. You attended school, received a degree and landed a good job in the city. You help to heal the inter-generational trauma by embracing your history, learning your culture and language, then sharing it with others. You now have a young daughter who you truly cherish.

One day you and your young child head out to the shopping mall. Once you are in the store, you head to the children’s department. Your young daughter is growing quickly and needs new clothes. A security guard follows you the entire time, just in case you steal something. It is so uncomfortable, you quickly make your purchase and head out.

As you walk towards your car, an SUV drives too close and brushes your child’s arm. A bruise develops and tears stream down her face. You approach the driver and tell her she hit your daughter. The driver shouts, “Get a job you lazy Indian!”, as she drives off, kicking up gravel.

You drive home and do your best to console your little girl. How do you explain all this to her?

A few days pass and you are heading home after a long day at work. As you wait at the bus stop, a large group of people with placards walk past, drumming and shouting. It is a group of Indigenous people protesting for land rights. While your heart understands, you have a child to pick up and supper to put on the table. You can’t get involved right now.

People around you start to grumble. Your bus arrives and you board along with a group of people who continue to complain loudly about the protests. Eventually they see you and start yelling at you! You ask if they would like to hear what the issue is from your perspective. They shout you down. They aren’t interested in your “stupid words.”

After a long 30-minute ride you get off the bus, shaking all over. You put on a brave face for your daughter but once she is in bed, you lie down and cry.

Final Step:

Take time to check in on how you feel, then answer these questions:

Does hearing someone else’s history (even in a brief manner like this) make you want to learn more in order to understand their worldview better?

Does it change your perspective and your worldview in any way?


While we may never agree with each other on everything, I believe it makes a huge difference to take the time to listen to the other person’s side. To truly listen and hear their perspective. To allow both a historical and current viewpoint to be expressed.

And more importantly, to realize our worldview is not the only worldview.

Only then will we be able to deepen our thoughts and open our hearts to reconcile differences. Only then can we become good partners, friends and neighbours.

I welcome respectful dialogue.

While the details of this story have been changed slightly, they are all true accounts from history, news stories and speaking with Indigenous friends.

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