Monday, August 31, 2015

where spiritual abuse intersects with my third culture life

I didn’t know how hard it would be to begin thinking about my Third Culture past.  An innocent reminder of a place I grew up came in the context of a nasty internet kerfuffle that brought up the teasing I experienced in school for being culturally different and because I am sensitive.  That was followed by a surprise personal attack on me in private for settling down a political discussion in my internet space.  I have lost friends for expressing opinions I always had but that they don’t like.  I have lost closeness with some members of family for asking for mutual respect.  I’ve been there: the brunt of nastiness for being different, talking differently, thinking differently, remembering differently, and experiencing differently. 

I’ve been misunderstood and yet I have come to believe I’ve often been the only one trying to understand. 

I’ve been misrepresented as this or that by people who claim to know me who reveal they really do not.  It hurts.  The grief of being a Third Culture Kid for me is not just in the identity issues, the loss or lack of home, nor even in an inability to trust people.  For me, it has been even more so in the betrayals I’ve experienced when I have trusted people to care.  I have found out who my true friends are, and sadly, though I am thankful for precious people who accept me and love me, too often I find that people of faith are not the ones who care about me as a person. 

If I cannot or do not conform to their views they have kicked me when I’m down, however well I’ve articulated my thoughts to them.  It doesn’t matter if they are friends or family, I have found I am expendable.  That hurts.  It is why I would rather preemptively remove myself from people who hurt people.  Too often people assume that my firm opinions are open to conformity to the surrounding culture, even though I have worked them out in culture and a context of life experience they do not share with me. 

My deepest pain is the depth of rejection by people who claim to know and love the God who loves me and gave Himself for me. 

A lack of willingness to be wrong or dialogue and learn more from each other is difficult to tolerate, when you have sat and listened to learn your whole life.  I get weary of listening to people who think they are authorities on life when they haven’t experienced anywhere near as much of life as I or others have.  I can’t even consider myself an authority on anything, because there is always so much more to learn.  But people who have it all figured out and reject me for thinking differently are harmful to me. 

The one person who does not reject is God.  But it can be hard (though not impossible) to find mutual community with people whose existence is rooted in one culture.  Simultaneously, I have been very naïve about life in the past and still presently find myself very idealistic.  I wish that people could open their eyes and get past the polarizations, but most won’t.  It is too hard for them.  And it is too hard for me to speak out about my opinions when I am misunderstood and treated like a heretic for having the opinion that we are all allowed our opinion and should base our thinking on facts. 

I find elements in several cultures I have experienced controlling, but none so much as a certain subculture of evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity.  Much of that subculture is corrupt.  People in it do not see the cult mentalities that have infiltrated it, and it is hard to talk of it when you grew up in it and still love many in it.  I can’t reach or control people out of their way of thinking, and I believe in Jesus like many of them do.  But what is so sad is the oppression in that group: the orphan – the sexually abused, the widow- the emotionally abused spouse, and the foreigner- the third culture kid like me- who are told by some with shaming implication not to share their pain because it might hurt the cause of Christ. 

Yet how the church treats us is an indicator of how close they are to the heart of God.  How the church treats those who mourn, including the deaths of loved ones, is an indicator of where it is spiritually.  I have not yet felt free to articulate much of this, because I come at spiritual abuse from a cross-cultural angle; one that is deeply personal.  I will be accused of playing the victim or wallowing, but I want passionately to see the church a safe place for future generations of oppressed and grieving peoples.  Because globalism is here, and Third Culture is the future experience of increasing numbers of individuals, with its joys and its augmented levels of grief and loss.

It is not right that churches should look down on people who are tired and over-stretched from grief or hyper-sensitivity, highly mobile or lonely, confused or vulnerable, and I have personally experienced this in certain churches.  It is right that the local church be the safest place in the world for diverse people.  Enough already with the happy-clappy songs and fake smiles.  Let’s get real about the hurts.  Let’s also get global in our thinking and recognize the hurts and real persecution of brothers and sisters of different traditions and support them in prayer and with our lives.  I thank God for local churches that are safe places for hurting people and get this. 

Third Culture is just one angle, and it is specific to me.  My life experience has taught me a lot about grief.  I know what it is to lose a loved one because they simply go missing one day and to find out later they were murdered.  I know what it is to deal with that as a teenager across the ocean from the event in question.  I know a little something of grief.  I want others who are going through so much to know they are not alone.  Why should that not be the desire of every little Christ who loves God?  Why are many American Christians so consumed with politics and not more consumed with loving people?  We are so far from our holy God who is love.  It must change.  It starts with me. 

But first, I must grieve the lack of love I have experienced and observed.  I see it daily online among Christians.  The behavior of many says they do not see those they disagree with nor people in sin as made in the image of God.  That hurts.  God is powerful and can change any of us.  He has redeemed me, and He ministers to us in our grief.  He suffered rejection and bereavement and understands our suffering.  He made us and knows us intimately: what we can bear and what we cannot.  He did not make us to suffer alone.  It is an indictment on the church culture that some of us do not feel safe to open up these wounds because we will be judged.
(Christ is King- English translation available in comments on YouTube)


  1. Beautiful and poignant. Thank you for vulnerably writing this.

    1. Thank you- quite possibly the most painful and most honest post I've ever written. Praying for God's people to stand up and love one another, but it's also important we speak out for this. Thanks for sharing. (Melody Young)


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