My Journey With Jante

For some of you Jante is a very well known “fella” here in Scandinavia but for most I’m pretty sure he is not even recognized by the hard drive in your head so today I’m gonna talk about him and our relationship. 

Jante was born in Denmark from a Norwegian-Danish father, and he loves to influence people with the clear social norms that, according to him and his plans, everyone should follow. I don’t know if these principles originally came out of his father’s mind with a good motivation (I don’t think so) and I won’t try to make a conclusion but definitely these ideas have been shaping the people and the nation I’m living in together with the countries around for quite some years.

I’ve heard about him before coming to Europe and I thought “It will be very interesting to see the way his principles work” – so I embarked with the expectation to seeing him operating. 

What I didn’t know was that since my very first day in Norway he put an eye on me.

I didn’t noticed he was looking at me – and to some others – at all time. Looking to the way I behaved, staring at my personality and analyzing how I related to new and old Norwegian friends. It didn’t take him to much time to get to know me very good. 

Jante is very cunning and sneaky (I’m not sure if these are the right words I want to use) and he knows how to place his ideas and values in your mind without even noticed it! – he has a very soft and sweet talk so I fell into his game. 

He first took my ability to make critical and valuable judgements, an ability that God gave me, but that he believes we should also apply to ourselves and to everyone else. So I started to use it with that purpose. He secretly recommended me to think more – seriously, waaaaay MORE!- about the new culture and how to be part of it so I could feel that I belonged here. He put in my mind the idea that as a Mexican I had too much excitement into my veins, something that Norwegians are not very used to, and that I should slow down a little bit. It was not hard for me to do it. I believe that God has blessed me with an unusual adaptability for different cultures and societies (maybe not for all of them though) so I took that ability to accomplish my new mental task: becoming a Norwegian, at least by heart. 

During my first months it was really hard. Between the “romance” period and the “culture shock” I almost gave up but I didn’t, believing that the gift the Lord gave me will allow me to reach my goal. Jante appeared sometimes just to let me know through small whispers when I was doing good or bad according to his rules.

The time passed and I feel an “improvement” on my character and personality and even when I knew (and still know) that would be impossible to become fully a Norwegian I felt part of the community! So my next goal was clear: learn the language! I also believe that as a missionary God has blessed me with the ability to learn languages in a considerable good time so I took the challenge! 

Not many time passed when I noticed that something was wrong. My skill didn’t work as well as when I was learning other languages and even when its true that I’ve never mastered any of them I did huge improvements in the first weeks of listening – I’ve learn some indigenous languages in Mexico and Honduras, english and french- but for some reason my ears were not functioning well! 

That wasn’t all. My “socio-Mexican” abilities to connect with people were lost!! D: and the “people-person” I thought I was seemed forgotten in my homeland so in order to keep my energy I needed longer periods of time with myself and with my thoughts, which by the way were running like crazy inside of my head! 

I started to pray to God searching for answers but my communication with him was not as good as before and then I freak out! I desperately needed Him! 

I started to feel very depress and useless until one day a thought came up to my mind, a creepy one: Who do you think you are? You don’t have any value here. 

Now, I could continue thinking about those words and allowed my mind and emotional status got worst but there was something unusual on this idea. As weird as it sounds I immediately recognized that this thought didn’t came from the Lord –Of course – nor from myself – Come on! I know how I judge my own self and this idea wasn’t part of my normal struggles – Somehow I clearly knew that this thought came from somebody else: Jante. Finally I could heard his voice in a very revealing way and I could recognized his intentions with me!

When I came back to the main missionary YWAM base in Norway I shared my experience with a friend who confirmed what I thought but with a bit more clarity: I let myself – or not – been influenced by one of the SPIRITS that oppresses Norway and the Scandinavian countries with it’s rules, something known as: The Jante Law or Janteloven in norwegian. 

The ideas he use to subdue and keep down most of the amazing people here are ten: 

You’re not to think you are anything special.

You’re not to think you are as good as we are. 

You’re not to think you are smarter than we are.

You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than we are.

You’re not to think you know more than we do. 

You’re not to think you are more important than we are. 

You’re not to think you are good at anything. 

You’re not to laugh at us. 

You’re not to think anyone cares about you.

You’re not to think you can teach us anything.

And the eleventh is the cherry on the cake:

11. Perhaps you don’t think we know a few things about you?

Probably I don’t know the real meaning of the 11th but as an ESL (english second language) it sounds pretty intimidating- at least to me, but specially if you are used to keep secrets. Why? well Jante moves “on the spiritual realm” and even when he cannot read our minds or thoughts he surely knows about your past and present and he will definitely take advantage of the situation to keep you down just as he did with me and with many others. 

But why God allowed this situation? Is not suppose to protect me as His child from every evil attack? Why did I had to pass through something like this? To experience empathy and not only sympathy with my Norwegian fellas and its culture. Not only to understand the spiritual situation but to lived it! I had a very similar experience when I was in Canada but that’s a story for another post. 

I will dare to say that maybe in a spiritual way and for a short period I became a Norwegian and perhaps during that time God allowed me to have a little taste of how a Scandinavians might feel and even struggles with this stuffs even without knowing it – however I don’t really know if this applies to all the Scandinavian nations and how. I believed that He allowed me to experienced the spiritual atmosphere on this nation with the purpose of knowing it but also to intercede and pray against the problem with all my heart and strength – is not the same reaction we have when we seeing it than when we living it – so that’s the place where I am standing up right now. 

But its only prayer enough? I don’t think so. Prayer is powerful but the Lord has gently led me to walk into His light so He gave me several accountability partners/friends for this purpose with whom I can be completely honest about my own struggles and processes. This helps me to walk on the truth of who am I and on God’s love and value for my life. His light. 

Some people think that the ideas behind The Jante Law are good because of the results they can see on the culture but those principles are against the Word of God and His thoughts of love for humankind. However what I think happens in this nation is that our Lord uses even this crappy situation “for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Jante and I were never friends. He doesn’t show or even speak a word of love as Jesus Christ clearly did and ask us to do in the Bible.

I’ll be honest, I’m still on the fight of getting out of Jante’s dominion and even when I know we will probably meet again I’m happy that he and his plans to made me feel bad and to question my own value have been expose, and the Lord has given me everything I need to face the battle again. I don’t have anything to fear! 

And because of this I’m gonna try with a new goal in mind: Love for everyone, complements, hospitality and free hugs are my new rule! Stuff you* Jante Law!! 

*Reference to Mark Parker 🙂

By Jose Elisama, part of the staff team of the Backpack DTS in YWAM Rogaland.