by Debbie Gin
I used to question my integrity a lot. I felt twinges of shame whenever I interacted with people because I thought I wasn’t “the real me” in every context. I behaved one way with my peers, another way with my family, and yet another way with my professors. I thought of myself as a fraud, a chameleon, easily changed by the presenting situation. At times, I even wondered whether I was “prostituting” myself out, becoming whatever my context needed me to be.
I also felt pressure to find my own path but felt conflicted on several levels. On the one hand, I resented my parents’ strong influence and expectations; on the other hand, I wanted to obey and prove my worth as a good daughter. There were also my peers and their insistence that my desire to please my parents reflected an obvious character flaw that would hamper my success in life.
More central questions belied these competing voices. Why, as a self-professed Christian, could I not simply rest in how God sees me and be free of others’ opinions and expectations? Then again, was it so wrong to entertain the opinions of the communities God had placed me in? Why did I feel so obliged to act out my designated roles with such propriety? These doubts about my own integrity and strength constantly nagged me.
Two years ago, the nagging and fears stopped. Completely. How? Several pieces in my life came together at once, in what I now recognize as a “sacred convergence.” One of the pieces was AAWOL. Although I initially committed to AAWOL with a desire to help younger Asian American evangelical women develop as leaders, I soon found myself the beneficiary of what I had hoped to offer others. During a time when I witnessed blatant race-based inequities and their effects on a close friend, I found solace and mentorship from other AAWOL women, who helped me to understand and respond to the situation. Through AAWOL, I learned to be more creative and culturally nuanced – and thus more effective – in how I interacted with my coworkers, which in turn empowered me to be a transforming voice in my workplace.
I now see that multi-vocality – having many voices and feeling a freedom that embraces the multiple voices of my community – is not a liability, but an asset afforded by my Asian American heritage! My many roles (wife, daughter, professor, student, church leader, etc.) provide me with opportunities to flow in and out of my various communities (family, work, school, church, etc.) as well as opportunities to influence and be influenced by each of these communities. The best part is that I no longer run from it; I no longer question my integrity because all of it is me. I now live as a whole human being!
Debbie Gin, M.Div. M.Mus., is the Director of Diversity Studies at Azusa Pacific University and an Assistant Professor in Biblical Studies and Ministry at Haggard Graduate School of Theology. She and her husband live in Southern California. To contact Debbie, please send your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.