Sunday, 27 May 2018
It was a really good exercise to participate in as it made me think about who exactly I belong to; what it is that makes me who I am. No one lives completely by themselves we all belong to other people in so many ways. Yes we belong to ourselves, but we also belong to one another.
I’ve been thinking a lot about belonging in recent times. The people who have made me who I am, that have influenced my life and the people whose lives I have touched too. I have entered into someone else’s life and family in recent months as my relationship with Sue has blossomed and flowered. I recently spent a day with her siblings and members of her family. I didn’t find this too much of a challenge actually. They have been very welcoming. I suspect that the reason I have been at ease is because I do belong in my own being. I can be myself in the company of others; I don’t need to try to fit into the lives of others and fall for the trap of false belonging.
Sadly many people, for a variety reason do not feel like they belong. Now of course some of this can be an inner sense of rejection, but not wholly, some people do feel that they cannot be themselves fully and thus do not always belong. Sadly some people and places do not always welcome all, do not always invite all to come as they are...
How do we help a person to belong? Well it begins with welcome, to say come as you are, exactly as you are. This though is not always easy. Identity and how people identify themselves can be complicated. This has become particularly apparent around gender in recent times. I know I have got it wrong on occassion myself , I have hopefully not hurt or offended anyone in my clumsiness. I am trying, but there is room for improvement in this area.
I do not want to exclude anyone from my circle of love and want everyone to feel that are accepted in my company, that they belong. Certainly as a minister I want people to feel that they can truly be who they are in the communities I serve. I truly want all to feel that they can come as they are and that no aspect of their humanity will be rejected. I do not want anyone to feel that need to fit into some ideal, and that in order to belong they have to do so falsely. Whether that be age, gender identity, sexuality, politics and belief or lack of.
A sense of belonging is a deeply precious thing. It is belonging that helps us become who we are meant to be. It is a sense of belonging that helps us to truly be who we are. By being who we are we encourage others to truly be who they are and thus belong authentically. It is so easy to fall for the trap of false belonging and to try and fit it.
A little while ago a friend of mine posted the following quote by Brene Brown, it was during an on-line conversation on identity and belonging:
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
I’ve listened to quite a bit of Brene Brown over the last few years and I have to say she speaks to the soul of me. I love what she has to say about the difference between “Belonging” and “Fitting in”, that they are not the same thing, although they are often mistaken for one another.
Brene Brown explains that “Fitting in” is really about assessing situations and becoming the person that you believe you need to be in order to be accepted and acceptable. Whereas “Belonging” does not require us to change who we are, but to be who we really are.
I believe that the primary purpose of my free religious tradition, of the communities I serve, is to create an environment where people can find their true belonging. My role as a minister is to create an environment where individuals can truly become who they are and to share that with each other. Yes it is true that each individual is unique but each can only truly become who they are in community with others. No one belongs wholly to themselves. No one is an island. From the day we are born we are part of families and communities. Now of course these can be oppressive and inhibiting or they can be liberating and life enhancing and can give us the environment to truly become who we are, all that we were born to be, without apology. Where we can practice perfect love for ourselves, one another, for God and all life. This is "Beloved Community", a space where you can become all that you are, in community with others.
By coming as we are and being all that we are, without apology we belong authentically, not falsely. Therefore, I have come to believe, our task is to find the courage to come as we are, exactly as we are, warts and all and beauty spots too and to let our light shine on one another and thus invite them to do the same.