Friday, January 28, 2011
Cross Cultural Living: A Chance to Embrace Humility
Occasions to be Humbled
Living in Turkey for 10 years, I’ve had many occasions to be humbled. Here are a few:
• One day in the kitchen years ago my “Turkish mother” showed me the right way to chop a bell pepper. The way I was doing it was wrong. I smiled and silently began chopping the pepper her way, but I was fuming inside. Why does it matter how I chop this pepper? What’s with her? I wish I were more mature.
• Another time at a Bible study group, I handed out the new songbooks I’d had made. We took an offering to help pay for the books, and one of the members announced to the group, “We shouldn’t ask foreigners to do jobs like this. Betsy got ripped off.”
• One night at my folk dancing class our group finally mastered a difficult new dance step. I smiled to the woman next to me and said, “I think we’re finally getting it.” She repeated, “I think we’re finally getting it” in an exaggerated American accent. Ouch.
• Later that same evening, an American friend Brenda and I were talking with a group, and several women laughed and made fun of Brenda’s accent. She turned as red as a beet! I didn’t care so much about one person imitating me, but I was upset by a group making fun of poor Brenda! As we left dance class I thought, “We really do not need this. We give up everything to come and serve the Lord here, and what do we get? People making fun of our accent!”
Why do situations like these bother me? They hurt my pride. Being taught to chop a bell pepper when you’re 28 can be humbling. Being told you got ripped off is humbling. Being teased in front of others is humbling. My pride rebels, and I have two natural reactions:
1. To justify myself. I KNOW how to cut a bell pepper. Or I don’t deserve this treatment.
2. To compare my country to Turkey. In America people would never make fun of a foreigner’s accent. Yeah, right. Think again.
Chances to Grow
In reality, these situations are small chances to grow, but I have to choose my attitude. I can cling to my wounded pride and become resentful. Or, even though it goes against everything inside of me, I can choose to adopt the same attitude Jesus had. “He made himself nothing,…He humbled himself.” (Phil. 2:7a,8) Jesus wouldn’t take it personally if someone made fun of his accent. He would just smile and keep loving that person.
His Word reminds me, “Clothe your selves with humility toward one another because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5) Okay, Lord, I ask you for grace. The next time I’m reminded that I’m a foreigner, help me to thank you for the chance to embrace humility. Help me to have the same attitude Jesus would.
Check back next week when I'll share “What I Can Learn From Turks.”