friendships, friends

4 Tips to Avoid Becoming a Self-Centered TCK

You walk into a youth group or church event, scanning the room to see which of your friends have arrived. As you’re looking around the bustling room, catching fragments of conversations, you see someone new. They look a little lost and unsure of where to go or who to talk to, just like you did when you first moved. Young, TCK you flashes back to the panic and fear you experienced.

Should you go say hi? 

At that moment, you realize you’re torn. You feel their unease because you’ve been there. You know you should reach out. But there’s another part of you that hesitates. You’re comfortable. You’re occupied. You’ve got friends. That new person isn’t your problem…

As TCKs, we often feel out of place, and making friends is hard. We can feel like no one understands us or what has formed our way of life. We ache for real, deep connections and for someone who really knows us. 

But eventually, we do make friends. And then new feelings and temptations arise. We easily become focused on ourselves and see our friendships from a self-serving lens.

There’s a sneaky tendency to start placing our needs and wants above other people’s. Especially when we’ve loved and lost, we can unknowingly be hurting our relationships based on our past hurts or our own selfish desires. 

By recognizing these tendencies and examining our own lives, we can strengthen and re-center our relationships with others and, ultimately, point our friendships toward God. 

1. Be open to new people. 

Our natural tendency is to be exclusive, is it not? 

Sure, when we’re on the outskirts of the conversations and the friendships happening around us, we long to make friends and be friendly. 

But sometimes, once we find a friend or a group of friends that we get along with wonderfully, our desire to make new friends … dries up. We can become content with our “best friend” or “friend group” to the point we don’t want any new friendships messing with the relational stability and control we have at the moment.

Humans do have limits. TCKs have limits. We can’t become best friends with every new person we meet, and we should not neglect the people and community God has put in our lives. But that shouldn’t stop us from opening our eyes to the needs of those around us. 

We can’t close ourselves off from reaching out to people and loving them because we only want to be with people who “get us.” 

God didn’t design us to live this way. What’s even more compelling, Christ didn’t live this way. 

Christ had His circle of friends, but these relationships didn’t hinder Him from investing in and getting to know the people that came into His path. Jesus loved all people, no matter their gender, nationality, religion, or social standing. No matter if they were in His group or shared common interests.

Do you judge and exclude others from your friendships or attention? Have your friendships become exclusive instead of seeking to glorify God? If so, how can you start including and loving others, even those who are not like you?

2. Don’t treat your friendships as transactional relationships.

In the same manner, we cannot approach our friendships based on what we can gain or on the higher social accolades someone may have.

Friendships that become transactional, “you do for me what I do for you,” foster self-focused motivations. 

I see this often in my own life. I love to affirm and love others with my words, and I crave that affirmation from them. Wanting affirmation or another healthy thing from a friend is not necessarily bad. But when I start manipulating conversations or affirming my friend just to hear it reflected back, I’ve started using my friend in an unhealthy way.

Christ calls us to live differently. Now, mind you, there’s nothing wrong with having standards for friends and expecting them to contribute to the relationship. A good healthy friendship takes work from both people. 

Being self-seeking can have an additional aspect: when we’re serving only self, we can be unwilling to step outside of our comfort zone. Whether that be introducing ourselves to the new kid in class, offering to help the overwhelmed mother with her kids, or sharing our thoughts in a Bible study group, it’s easy to let our insecurities hold us back.

Christ shows us a beautiful example of self-sacrificing friendship. He deeply loved His disciples and served them faithfully, even though He was God and didn’t need anything from them. He served the lowliest in Jewish society: the crippled, the blind, the outcast, and the unclean. 

Jesus didn’t shy away from hard-to-love people. He chose to engage with those whom society had shunned, knowing society would judge Him as well.

How can you guard your heart and relationships against becoming self-serving? How can you step past your fears and pain to build selfless relationships where God has placed you?

3. Seek fulfillment in Jesus.

As TCKs, it can be easy to find our identity in our past experiences or in the recognition we get for the places we’ve gone and the things we’ve seen. It is certainly nice to feel that someone is willing to listen and understand our experiences. 

But if we don’t get that recognition, do we still treat those people with love

If our identity is in our background or “status” as a TCK, we can get insecure and desperate for someone to see that we bring value to the table. Of course, this desire for recognition and understanding isn’t inherently bad. Instead, what matters is what we do with this emotional need. 

Do we draw attention to ourselves, forgetting that God is the Author and Finisher of our story? Do we look down on people that don’t see our “special” TCK status? Or do we discount or minimize the stories of people with whom we don’t share common experiences?

We may need to reevaluate and see if we are seeking false fulfillment in our friendships or in how we are viewed by other people. This leads to selfishness and, in extreme cases, may lead to codependency and idolatry when we place other people’s opinions above what God says about us. 

Take a step back and honestly look at your relationships, both local and fellow TCKs. Have any become a source of identity or stability? If any were taken away from you, would you lose your sense of self?

Friendships change, people change, and as a TCK your home may change, but your relationship with God is the only one steady enough to fulfill you. 

Do you feel that your value and identity is in being a TCK? Or in one of the cultures you try to fit into? How instead can you find your identity in God and what He says about you? 

4. Beware of idolizing friendships.

We were created to bring God glory, love others, and live with eternity in view. But when we place people in the place of God, our perspective shifts. No longer is God the biggest thing in our hearts and minds. Insecurity, fear, and hurt fill this place. 

This is how many of us live our lives. We may not have an obvious idolatry by making one friend the center of our life. We instead simply let relationships at large become more important than what God says about us. But this is still idolatry. 

God is our Judge, therefore, we can live free of the crippling fear of being judged by others. He accepts and loves us, regardless of our accent, culture, or background.

God is our Savior, therefore, we look to Him for our ultimate salvation from difficulties, not placing that pressure on our friends. And we don’t have to prove ourselves good enough to be their savior, either. 

God is our ultimate Friend and Lover, so we are never truly friendless and unlovable.

He is our Provider, so even when we feel abandoned and uncared for, He will provide for our every need.

God is our refuge, so we always have a place to rest when we are misunderstood. Even when we don’t fit in, God welcomes all into His Kingdom and offers us healing and grace. 

TCKs can be selfish too.

TCKs are often praised for our relationship skills and for the ways we have learned to connect with others and bridge cultural divides. Perhaps you have experienced this, or maybe you haven’t yet. 

But while TCKs definitely have relational strengths, we, like every other fallen human, have weaknesses and temptations. Perhaps even unique weaknesses wrought by our TCK experiences.

When we put our identity and value in relationships, our actions and motives become self-focused. We become self-seeking, which leads to excluding those who don’t serve our desires. No one is immune to this. 

Learning to do friendships God’s way takes time and practice. So let’s begin today! 

What steps can you take to guard your friendships against selfishness? What are some ways you can realign your focus and keep God at the center of your life and relationships?

bio picture of Catherine Thompson
Guest Writer

Catherine Thompson

Catherine Thompson has always been encouraged by honest, hope-filled words. She has journeyed through an international move and recent chronic illnesses—both of which impact her writing and current life. She seeks to bless others and bring beauty to the world through writing and visual design. She currently lives in New England, but much prefers the warm weather of her childhood in the Pacific. You will often find her chatting with friends or family, playing with her puppy, learning new things, or curled up in a fluffy blanket with a good book.

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