For as long as I can remember, I have longed to belong but have instead presented a version of myself that I thought might be accepted by others so that I would fit in.
The online definition of “belonging’ is defined as a verb meaning to be a member or part of a particular group, organization or class. To fit in to a specific place or environment, to have the right personal or social qualities, to be a member of a particular group or to be rightly placed in a specific position. I loathe every single one of those definitions because they do not convey the deep longing that exists for someone who aches to belong.
Brene Brown, who is best known for her Ted Talks on Vulnerability and Shame, compares and contrasts what it means to ‘belong’ with what it means to ‘fit in’. She makes the clarification between the two which I feel gives us a more accurate definition because we can see that freedom exists with belonging and does not exist when we try to just ‘fit it.’ When attempting to fit in, we are attempting, to the best of our ability, to ascertain who we are to be with those around us and what the situation or circumstance is that we are encountered and then conforming or changing who we are as persons so that we “fit in” and so that we will be accepted.
Belonging, on the other hand, is about freedom of authenticity. It is the freedom from having to alter our selves so that we will be accepted, wanted and valued. When we belong, we are respected for who we are and loved without having to “do” or “be” anything other than ourselves.
In summary, belonging is being somewhere you desire to be with others you desire to be with and they want you. Fitting in is when they don’t care one was or the another whether you are there or who you are when you get there. Belonging is being accepted just as you are while fitting in is being accepted when you are just like everyone else. “I get to be me if I belong” vs. “I have to be like you to fit in”.
What I understand right now, in this moment is that as long as I settle for just fitting in I will never satisfy the deepest longing of my heart which is to be intimately seen, looked upon in love and to experience the safety of truly belonging. My deepest longing and desire is for the unique and unrepeatable gift of myself to be received. If I were to write a mission statement it would look something like this:
“It looks like stopping daily for the one in front of us and looking into their eyes. We have to see the one. If we cannot see the one, we will not be able to deal with the multitudes. If we see the one, we will understand suffering, because we will see one parent suffering from the death of a child. We will see one widow trying to not lose their faith as they try to imagine how they will raise up their children alone. We will see the one in front of us that is struggling with pornography and the impact it has on their family. Revival is about looking into they eyes of the person in front of you as they come into your life and looking into their eyes and seeing Jesus looking back at us. I desire to lead a radical army that sees goodness and truth and beauty in the lost and the broken. We need a radical army of laid down lovers=a whole generation of those who are so full of passion and intimacy that they run into the darkness without fear to bring in the lost bride.”
Will you join me?