If people are made to feel they don’t belong they will choose not to belong. It’s up to us to make sure people feel they belong.
Think of a time—surely this resonates with all us—when you felt so excluded from a group or team or collection of peers you felt you had nowhere to fit in that situation. You felt like an alien; an outsider; an outlier.
It’s the commonest form of bullying—isolating people—because it’s the easiest to engage in. Even those who don’t think themselves as bullies engage in it because they are easily led. We’ve all engaged in it.
In this way, we humans are not unlike sheep. We don’t want to pop our head out of the flock, so, because we are safe and want to keep things that way, we go along with isolating the black sheep as others do.
Such isolation for exclusion causes a sense of despairing loneliness in that black sheep. Sometimes it can seem as though their only friend is God.
Rarely do we truly understand that sense of soul loneliness until we’ve experienced the Arctic cold of social anathema personally.
The person bullied by isolation either submits in a relative depression or they react in varying strains of anger. Resistance is the most typical response. They will seek to disengage.
Now, let’s flip the focus.
The easiest, best way of growing a church or a movement is to make people feel included, like they belong, toward a great cause. Something significant achieved together is the pinnacle of human experience.
Such times when success is paired with belonging are so memorable they power us on to even greater visions and revelations.
Here we see hope’s coherence with belonging.
When we fit, when we know we belong because most accept us and desire us in some meaningful way, our lives thrive in hope.
We can see how the opposite situation tears hope right out of the firm grip we have made of it.
The Challenge of Love
The challenge of love is to ensure people really feel they belong; where we give ourselves sacrificially—whether they accept it or not—so the other is raised up.
We are to become less, them more, so hope between us, and in them, will thrive (see John 3:30).
The great payoff—particularly for the already isolated person who does this (giving themselves sacrificially)—is we take control of our social situations in love.
When we give ourselves to others in ways that are of value to them, they feel they belong to us, and we too feel we belong to them. It erodes the grip of loneliness within us when we resolve to reach out and give these ways.
Hope is revived in the lonely when they take the risk of connecting with others in ways meaningful for others.
Only when people feel they truly belong is there love. Love is a transaction between the giver and the receiver and back again. Love creates a sense of belonging, and where we belong we have great meaning and purpose in life. There is hope and joy.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.