As a teenager, belonging was the driving force of my life. When I was fourteen (a loooong time ago,) just about to enter high school, I longed with all my heart to be part of what I considered the ‘in crowd.’ You know, the popular ones, the self-confident kids everybody wanted to be friends with. Then I changed schools and my priorities shifted. In my new school I just wanted to make some friends. So, I joined the chorus. From there I joined the big, seasonal musical productions run jointly by two schools and met a whole group of new friends. There I found the belonging that I’d searched for.
At least until I didn’t. Huh?
I never quite belonged enough to feel secure. I always needed more, more reassurance, more acceptance, more belonging. I was astonished when one day I heard someone who hung on the outskirts of our group, mention something about us being the ‘in group.’ What?! I was part of the ‘in group?’ Then how come I didn’t feel confident and popular and totally accepted? Surely those ‘in group’ kids felt that way all the time. Right?
Then it was time to move on to college. There, I joined a small singing group of women with whom I became good friends.
Hey, it worked the first time, sort of…
Fast forward through marriage, motherhood, remarriage, many moves and many lifetimes and I joined another singing group. Another group of friends, spiritually oriented this time. Yet, somehow, I was still searching for belonging.
Why wasn’t I finding what I was looking for? Could it be that I was looking in the wrong place?
“You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
Could it be that an enduring sense of belonging can’t be found outside oneself? Perhaps it can only be found within.
“When you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness, is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible.”
I turned my eyes inward and searched there for belonging. I encountered all those dark places, the parts of myself that felt unacceptable. The aspects that I didn’t like about myself and still am not overly fond of. Yet, I’ve declared an armistice with those bits and pieces in favor of overall peace. Oddly enough, the more I am able to accept those parts of myself, the less I seem to need to express them. Go figure.
So, where does that leave us? It brings us back to understanding the need for belonging. Understanding that it is an inner sense of belonging that fills the need more completely than the ephemeral acceptance of others. It is the absolute acceptance of God that feeds the starving.
When I think to myself, “I belong to God,” my heart feels full. And that is enough. From that place I am able to do as St. Francis of Assisi recommended and offer to others what I desire for myself. As I offer deep acceptance to others, I too am accepted. I belong, because I belong to God.
Peace Prayer of Saint Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
-Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi
What this means for the current state of our world is that its healing begins within each of us. For as we grow into the willingness to accept all aspects of ourselves, even those parts that feel unacceptable, then we know that we belong. When we know we belong, we can do no less than offer acceptance and belonging to others, because we all belong to God.
*Brene Brown is a research professor at the University of Texas and She has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy and is the author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers based upon her research.
Life is full of spiritual lessons. Some feel good, some not so good. All support us to grow. This blog is about my life lessons. Perhaps you'll find yourself within these stories.