If I take offense easily, if I am content to continue in a cool unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love.Amy Carmichael
While living in one culture, with a heart and ideals fashioned after another, it is easy to become offended. Daily. Deeply. All relationships everywhere are messy but there is a whole other dimension to those which are cross cultural.
If you spend weeks, or even months, in Haiti you may not realize the different cultural norms or huge discrepancies (they are extensive). The poverty may hit you hard when you step off the plane, but the fact that you can’t confront a conflict head on and solve it in one conversation may not.
You may experience the different diet, but you probably won’t taste the deep fear that grips people from living in a spiritually dark place. Everything is new and different. You’re hyped up on adventure. You never want to leave. As the months wear on things really aren’t as easy as they once seemed. There is good and bad in every culture. We can’t right the wrongs over night, we shouldn’t conform to them either. But most of our differences are just that… different.
I was not prepared for the challenge. At the first sight of tension I was undoubtedly frustrated… I kept asking, “I have all the right words, why don’t you understand??” Learning a second language is HARD, but hear this, it pales in comparison to cultural understanding.
Creating conflicts at every turn seemed to be my lot in life at one point. Heartbroken tears gripped me daily from what I saw as major things. It hurt. A lot. I went looking to the world for a solution. A quick Google search will tell you plainly “opposite cultures are opposite universes”, “Americans are not and will never be compatible with Haitians” and “to attempt to understand one from another cultural is crazy and impossible.” I began to despair. What if they are right?
THEY AREN’T RIGHT! We must call that what it is, a lie from the mouth of Satan! Yes it is hard, it is so hard, some days giving up feels like heaven. The world will tell you that you deserve to be happy and completely understood in every relationship. Do I? Relationships, whatever sort they may be, are always sacrifice. In the end you will find there is much beauty. The cross has made a way for ALL to come to the Father through Jesus, in unity.
For you were called to freedom brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh (to serve yourself), but rather through love serve one another.Galatians 5:13
To myself and others struggling through cultural discrepancies
God sees you. He has a beautiful plan for sanctification in your life through this. Stop looking to the world for the answer, all you will find is despair.
Growing in understanding is a beautiful thing though it is an uphill battle. Remember, friendship is always possible, It is my choice to overlook offenses (which are rarely intentional). In the end my life will be much more colorful and beautiful than if I had stayed on my side of the globe or held on to all of my old ways. determined not to change.
What I have learned through the process of adapting in this culture:
- There is grace for today, always.
- My desire to love well can not be conditioned upon being loved in return.
- Some things are best left unsaid, actually most things.
- The tone of words in an argument are just as crucial as the words themselves.
- Hugs can fix a lot, for children and adults alike.
- When there is a problem always go to the one involved, NEVER talk around them.
- You are better off to laugh at a misunderstanding than to take it to heart.
- Sacrifices made, to keep peace amidst offense, changes a person for the better.
- Let small things go.
- Long held beliefs, fears especially, won’t disappear overnight, it will often take years of patiently sharing truth.
- There is nothing else in the world, I am convinced, that humbles a person faster than loving those of another culture.