As We Move Forward: Belonging

BelongingIt is essential to every person to have a sense of belonging. The model of the family forms the ideal environment for a person to find love, protection, nurture, education and so much more. For the rest of our lives, we seek ways to belong. The things we do to belong say a lot about who we are and what is really important to us.

Where do you find your sense of belonging? Many people in our complex culture find it increasingly difficult to have the experience of belonging anywhere. A big part of belonging includes shared values.

A big part of belonging is being able to trust others in a relationship where we belong to accept us for who we are. I have maintained for many years that it is more important for someone to respect me than to like me. That is primarily because liking some is basically a feeling based response over which we have little if any control. Respect is something which can be freely offered to another person. I have said many times that when there is no longer mutual respect between me and someone with whom I have a relationship, there needs to be serious discussion about the nature of the relationship.

FriendsHaving a relationship with a sense of belonging includes respect but goes beyond that. The essence of a relationship that brings with it the sense of belonging keeps coming back to essentials like core values and beliefs. I feel safe around people with whom I share core values, like honesty and integrity. I can disagree with people in this type of relationship as long as our mutually held values and beliefs are not violated.

This actually sounds more complicated than it really is. Do you have, or have you ever had, a best friend? What makes this relationship so special? Perhaps you have known this person for a major portion of your life. Many people share that they have others they see more often and interact with more frequently than their best friends. It follows from this that is the quality of the relationship more than the quantity of time spent together that makes this special friendship a place where we feel that sense of belonging.

We experience degrees of bonding in various relationships. Fans of athletic teams can experience a sense of belonging as they cheer for victory or agonize over defeat. The bond may or may not go deeper than the excitement of rooting for the same outcome. Hopefully the place you work gives you a sense of belonging. Much of that will depend on how much the values and culture are shared with you and how closely these mirror your own.

CrowdThe same can be said of a country. Our sense of belonging to our country is directly related to  how we believe these values to be a reflection of our own. When that does not occur or is disrupted, we may experience a sense of isolation and frustration. In a country as diverse as ours, it can sometimes be difficult to experience a sense of belonging. This is even more difficult in a time like this when modern communication sources give us so much information it can at times come across as information overload.

As we move forward, let us remember that our sense of belonging does not require us to agree on everything. We need to be constantly aware of our core values and beliefs so we can gauge all our relationships in terms of how closely they line up with those from whom we seek a sense of belonging. My hope is that each of us will find at least one place, and hopefully, several, where we can not only feel a sense of belonging, but offer that to others in our lives.

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