“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” Proverbs 11:2
Third Culture Kids are lovers of people and lovers of diversity. After all, their lives are often spent being the minority in a country that is - and is not - their own. However, I have noticed a phenomenon in my own life that I think may ring true for other TCKs as well.
We are lovers of diversity, yet we have a very difficult time accepting people in our passport country, especially when it comes time to adapt and be a part of that community. For many TCKs, this is in college. We have spent our whole lives being unique and different. Being told how special we are, how diverse our worldview is, and how different we are from kids our age back in our passport country. While these things may be true, it creates the perfect concoction for a prideful, “better-than” attitude. We go back to the country our passport says we belong to, and suddenly we don’t belong. For me, that wasn’t a surprise. I was conditioned to know that I didn’t really belong and honestly, I didn’t want to. I liked being different.
College began and I struggled to make friends, or at least that is how I saw it. Looking back with a slightly matured perspective, I can see that I got in my own way. I saw the other freshman girls and thought, “I’m so different than them, we could never be friends”; “I’ve seen so much of the world, and they’ve never left the state”; “I have so much life experience, and they’ve only just moved out of their parent’s house”; “I’m a TCK; they could never understand me”. Pride, pride, pride.
I scroll through my Facebook feed and see people who I could have been great friends with had I only been willing to humble myself. I never outwardly treated them poorly, but my internal attitude said, “I’m better than you,” and I regret the friendships that I missed out on because of that. I have learned in the years since my college days, that there are, believe it or not, amazing people who have only ever lived in America. We give so much grace to people outside of our passport country, but extend so very little to the people in it. We would do ourselves good to combat that TCK arrogance and take a stance of humility. We may be surprised at the amazing people we befriend when we don’t let our pride get in the way.
If you are parents in the midst of raising TCKs, be deliberate about addressing the issue of pride. It is one that every human struggles with in some form, but I think that TCKs are especially susceptible, and thus, parents of TCKs should be especially intentional. The most successful parenting method for anything is time and consistency. When we as parents consistently instill principles in our children, over time those principles will become their foundation and core if they choose to take them to heart. Here are a few ways you can do this with your children:
Look at what the Bible says. The Bible is very clear on the issue of pride. Pride that stems from self-righteousness is sin. (Proverbs 8:13) It is the exact opposite of the spirit of humility that God desires in His people. There is a fine line between acknowledging that TCKs are unique and not letting this become an excuse to have a prideful, better-than, or more-godly-than attitude. Absolutely acknowledge the benefits of being a TCK and living overseas -- there are many! But, also reinforce the concepts of being “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3) and doing “nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
Memorize scriptures about pride and humility with your children. Write them on sticky notes and display them on the bathroom mirror or on the dashboard of the car. Make this topic an ongoing conversation.
Other verses about pride: Isaiah 2:12, James 4:6, James 4:10, Proverbs 13:10, Proverbs 16:18, Proverbs 21:4, Romans 12:3, Psalm 138:6, Romans 12:16, 1 Corinthians 13:4
Teach them how to get to know someone. Send your kid on a mission to get to know someone new. Have them learn 5 interesting facts about the new child at their school or in the community, or perhaps someone who has been there for a while but doesn’t seem to have many friends. What you are teaching them to do is to not assume that they want or don’t want to be friends with someone because of any preconceived notion. They will likely find that there is more to the person than they originally thought. Teach your children how to genuinely get to know people, so that when they do return to their passport country one day, they are already in the habit of taking the time to learn about someone before making any judgements.
Talk about your pride. Being vulnerable is tough; especially being vulnerable with your kids. But, it is hard for children (and adults) to work through complex issues like pride without a good example. Talk about ways you have dealt with or are dealing with pride in a way that is at your child’s maturity level. Kids love to hear stories of their parent’s childhood, so perhaps share a story of a time when you acted pridefully at their age. If you do something and realize that it was fueled by a prideful attitude, consider sharing that with your child. Vulnerability on your part will help your child to recognize what pride looks like, feel more comfortable about confessing that struggle to you, and learn to deal with it appropriately.
Teaching your child about pride may require you swallowing your own and humbling yourself enough to have these potentially difficult conversations. Pride has many faces and can leave so much wreckage in its wake, so knowing that this may be a particular challenge for TCKs, we are then equipped to give them tools to combat that attitude and put on humility. And doubtless we’ll learn a thing or two ourselves as well!