Developing a Sense of Belonging
As human beings, our need to feel like we belong is innate. In fact, it’s in our genes. Our ancestors of long ago had a fiercely tribal sense of belonging to their group because it was the difference between life or death. Groups were often homogenous in behavior and thought. To act in a way that was different from the group meant potential ostracization and therefore, no provision or protection from the group.
There are a number of social and psychological benefits to this sense of belonging.
An article in Psychology Today has this to say about belonging:
“A sense of belonging to a greater community improves your motivation, health, and happiness. When you see your connection to others, you know that all people struggle and have difficult times. You are not alone. There is comfort in that knowledge.”
Just as a sense of belonging has benefits, conversely, a sense of its absence can bring pain and suffering. Think of a time when the mere thought of rejection crossed your mind. What emotions instantly arose, and are possibly arising now as you read? Feelings of anxiety, fear, sadness, depression? Not to mention the immense feelings of loss we experience when we actually are rejected or kicked out of a group. This psychological pain is some of the worst pain a human can experience.
The Bible also talks about belonging.
We know that a desire to belong is more than simply a choice. From a Trinitarian, Christian standpoint, a sense of belonging is a part of what it means to be made in the image of God. The constant fellowship and relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are a picture of how we were intended to interact with those around us.
When praying for his disciples Jesus said,
“That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (John 17: 21)
In verse 23, He goes on to say,
“I (Jesus) in them and you (Father) in me—so that they (all humans) may be brought to complete unity.” —(words in parentheses are mine)
From these verses and the context of the passage, I understand that love and belonging are to draw us closer to one another for the purpose of unity.
When we look around us, we can see that belonging often comes at a price: someone else or some other group is excluded. I’d argue that this is not the kind of belonging God intended. In God’s kingdom there’s not a scarcity of love to go around. There is an abundance, and connection is a priority.
If you are struggling with rejection or loneliness and the negative emotions that naturally come with that, I encourage you to pause and meditate on the idea that we are all one in Christ. And Christ is in us. The wall that divided us from God and one another is torn down. Consider how you are connected to each and every person on the planet and how that connection is meaningful whether you are in their presence or not. Then practice an acceptance of others you may disagree with or dislike. Think about how they too, experience suffering and loneliness.
If a group has rejected us, or for some reason we find ourself in the pains of loneliness, that rejection or loneliness does not take away from our worth and value. Our feelings, although valid and valuable, are not always indicators of what is true about us or about the world around us.
If you feel stuck in negative thoughts or emotions that stem from rejection or loss, contact us at Agave Sozo and schedule an appointment. We’re a guided healing prayer ministry that gets to the root of emotional pain and can bring relief, joy, and freedom. To find out more about our ministry, visit our website.
Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (2/18/2019) Pixaby