Have you ever been in that situation at work or at school or really, anywhere, when you see a circle of people and wonder if you are welcome in their circle?
It happened recently that I was sitting in such a circle. The next day I heard that a friend would have joined but felt like the closed-ness of the circle and the body language of the people in that circle—all leaning forward, intent on the conversation—made it clear they were not welcome. I was surprised. Our circle had 2 or 3 empty chairs in it, and after my friend had walked by to join another group instead, somebody else did join the circle.
So why did the first friend not feel they belonged, while others did?
Belonging is a feeling we have inside of us. It cannot be thrust upon us; we can buy somebody a membership to something or give them a ride to a meetup, but until that person feels like they belong, they do not.
Community—intentional, covenantal community—is not magical. It takes work and we have to examine our own behaviors, feelings, and beliefs. Going from feeling welcome, or safe, or even comfortable, are gateways to feeling that we actually belong somewhere.
For instance, I attended UU church for awhile before I could say “I am a UU.”
Who do you belong to? What place is balm for your soul?
Belonging happens gradually and is not externally certified in any way—it is in the heart. We all belong somewhere, but we have to recognize it. We are the only ones who can. Then we have the responsibility of nurturing the relationship so that the place, person, or group we belong to remains welcoming to us, safe for us.
The next time you have the chance to join a group or not, you might notice that you cannot because of time or some other extraneous reason. But check on your heart—could you join if you wanted to?
May you encounter open circles and build some, too.
In peace with love,