As infants and toddlers we begin to learn the ways in which we can get recognized. In some cases it’s cooing and smiling, in other cases it’s crying and screaming. We watch the reactions of those around us and we act accordingly so we can have our own valued role in this exclusive group known as family.
As we grow into adolescence and adulthood this need to be a part of something stays with us. I’d venture to say that even the loners, misfits, and black sheep among us feel comforted when they connect with others who share their sense of “not belonging.” In most schools you can find an array of clubs for students to join. Being a part of something makes us feel special and even more so when our organization, community, or family proclaims to have a secret or truth that no one else holds.
Not too long ago, Jennifer Shelton shared her thoughts on religion in this post. I understood and appreciated her message. Recently I found myself back in my childhood church attending a funeral. As is the custom the service celebrated the life of the departed but also included a sermon from her minister, but surprisingly, I found myself squirming in the pew as I sat through a meeting of a very exclusive club that I was no longer a member of.
There was no space in this group for the uncertainty about God that has plagued me for half of my life. It didn’t seem to be present in most of those around me. They’d taken the pledge, gone through the initiation process, and staked their claim on that narrow path. I’d lost, or perhaps just tossed away, my membership card. It’s hard to describe what I felt sitting there. I guess anger would be the appropriate word. I came to honor my loved one’s life and instead found myself feeling for all the people whose values and beliefs were being discredited. It was also difficult to sit within a circle that I just no longer belong in.
Even those of us who don’t follow any organized religion find a label and a tribe. I call myself spiritual -- it sets me a part and plunks me into a group I consider special. I believe in a higher power and a spiritual force that guides me, though I can’t say for certain what that force is. I like to think that uncertainty is a kind of secret or truth that makes my life much more peaceful to live.
I have friends who are atheists. They believe that their rational minds and common sense set them a part and make them special. Believing in only what can be seen and measured provides them with a certain satisfaction.
Human beings are social creatures -- I think we thrive most within the context of relationships. There is no better demonstration of this then the forming of groups. Within groups our beliefs, longings, desires, and values are affirmed. We find comfort and safety in the companionship of like-minded souls.
In my life I still struggle with the differences between myself and some people I love. I often worry that my inability to remain in or join certain Religious or Political groups means that I may be respected or loved less. But this square peg simply won’t fit into those round holes and all I can do is be OK with that. The labels and groups we chose give our lives, to some extent, meaning and purpose. I will strive to always honor and respect those choices in others and hope that I receive the same in return.
What about you? Do you have a tribe that makes your soul sing and affirms your values? Or have you ever struggled with leaving a group you once belonged to?
photo credit: Florida State Seminoles football team comes together for a pre-game huddle. I bet they feel pretty special!
Love and Light,
Visit my website: www.lesleehorner.com
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