Has a new acquaintance ever asked you a question that put up your defenses a little bit because of a breach of privacy: something that makes you think “Wow, buddy, I don’t know you well enough for that one!” For the American culture this includes questions like your weight, your salary, and possibly certain ambitions. We definitely have our set of rules for when and where someone “crosses the line.”
But what about the question, “What are your spiritual gifts?” Does that offend you? At least for Julie and I, we were comfortable asking such a question with Christians that we met in the states, but we are quickly learning that we should be more careful in posing such a question in Spain.
A Spanish Christian friend recently relayed a story about how an American acquaintance asked her her spiritual gifts, much to her chagrin. Julie and I won’t soon forget her explanation of her feelings, “I was like, excuse me! I don’t even know you.” She wasn’t comfortable because for her, spiritual gifts reflect something personal, close to the heart, information only for her friends know.
God is teaching us through the council of our Spanish friends the necessity of patience in investing in relationships, respecting boundaries of privacy for the sake of the relationship, and waiting for a relationship to grow with time. Let’s be honest, if someone from outside America came into an American Evangelical church and didn’t respect our cultural boundaries, we would write them off immediately, probably because we wouldn’t feel understood or appreciated. In Spain, breaching someone’s personal privacy isn’t the best way love someone, and our motivation should always be love. God help us to be tactful enough to learn more about the Spanish culture, respect their values, and adjust from our American sensibilities.