Commitment issues… I usually nod sympathetically when someone tell me about difficult breakups due to the other person having commitment issues. What I don’t tell them is that, even though I feel terrible about a friend being hurt by a broken relationship, I tend to identify more to the un-committed (You can read a bit about this battle of mine in my last post, Struggling to Care).
Not all Third Culture Kids (TCKs) struggle with commitment. In fact, when it comes to relationships, TCKs seem to have one or both of two very different responses.
- Deep and Wide: Because TCKs have come to realize that their time with people can be cut short at a moment’s notice (due to moving so often), they may try to skip past all the small-talk and jump into what’s deep and meaningful. They want to live to the fullest in the time they are given, so relationships are intense.
- Approach and retreat: As mentioned in 1, TCKs know that time with people is limited, so to avoid the pain of drawing close and saying a painful goodbye, some TCKs find ways to retreat…a developed fear of commitment.
This is not my own theory. This is in every TCK-info book out there. In their book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken explain that when TCKs experience many losses of relationships regularly, they develop a fear of intimacy. I know this survey is quite old, but Pollock and Van Reken share that in 1986, a survey of 300 adult TCKs was conducted. 40% of the participants admitted to having a fear of intimacy because they are afraid of loss.
“After awhile…the potential pain of saying Goodbye outweighs the fun it might be to have a friend- if even for a short time.”
Lois Bushong, M.S.
Belonging Everywhere and Nowhere: Insights into Counseling the Globally Mobile
So, now what?
I’m not perfect. I don’t have the answers. I don’t always feel ready to take that risk. But, I have learned a few things in this journey…
I recently met with a wise friend who encouraged me to choose to care.
Easier said than done, right?
What helps is when I can see examples of other people living out that risk. Friends, it’s Easter weekend! The PRIME example of commitment in relationships is Jesus choosing to give his life on the cross for us…for his friends.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”
Jesus loved deeply…he definitely was not afraid of a meaningful relationship. He obviously was close to his friend Lazarus, because he wept when he was told of his death (John 11). More than that, he continually loved on and encouraged the 12 disciples, even when they were doubtful and even when he was betrayed (Mark 4:35-41, John 18: 1-13, 20:24-30). Read the Gospels, they are chock full of Jesus caring!
Even after he died, he came back to comfort, to show hope, and to continue discipling and challenging his friends (Mark 16:9-18, Luke 24, John 20, etc.).
The point is…caring is Biblical, and it’s a choice we need to make. It’s not always an easy choice. But it’s how God has called us to live (Mark 22:36-40). He has filled us with His love, and it would be selfish for us to keep that love to ourselves. Instead, we need to let His love overflow in our lives so we can share it with others. And though I imagine myself growing weaker with the love I give, and the losses of people I love, I have to remind myself that God’s love is unending. And He will not stop pouring His love into me. The least I can do is share it.
It seems like such a small commitment…to care about someone enough to listen, to be there, to just…care!
But in this season of Easter, before a Friend whose caring led him to choose pain, suffering, and death, and who could have backed out at any moment and yet didn’t…
The least I can do is choose to care.