When You Feel Like You Are On the Outside Looking In
‘Everyone’s Welcome, Nobody’s Perfect, Anything’s Possible.’ That’s the title of a blog post that I read this week that got me thinking. It was by well known author Jennifer Dukes Lee. She writes:
It begins by stopping everything we’re doing to let someone know they’re worth it.
You can read the entire article here: http://jenniferdukeslee.com/everyones-welcome-nobodys-perfect-anythings-possible/
So many people feel unseen today. Have you ever felt like you are on the outside looking in? Have you felt like a spectator viewing life through a glass window? Personally I don’t feel lonely, and I have some lovely friends, however I am no stranger to this feeling. I have felt this way from time to time in my life, and in fact, this is such a common feeling that it has been studied as a broad term by many psychologists. Plenty of information abounds on the web about ‘social isolation’ or ‘social estrangement.’ There are many reasons why people feel this way, and one reason is the deep roots of rejection that many people have. No matter where they are or who they are with, they don’t feel included.
The issue of rejection is a topic I’d like to leave for another time, but I wanted to touch on the slightly touchy subject of cliques. It is human nature to form cliques. I only have to observe my two preschool daughters and the little friendship groups that they have formed from the tender age of two! The dynamics of social life never seem to change, whether you are a three year old in preschool, a teenager, a twenty something or in your thirties, forties or seventies. Cliques happen. While this may be nice for the people on the inside of the clique, it may be less pleasant for those who may feel like they are on the outside looking in. I know that most of the time it is unintentional when someone is left out. I’m sure I’ve been cliquey before, possibly without realizing it. Women are busy. Perhaps our social schedule is full. We are weary and worn out and travelling through life often at breaking speed. We don’t even realize that we are being cliquey. So often we are too busy to catch up with close friends, let alone make time to include new friends into our circles. And many of us are a little introverted or somewhat shy. We like people, but we are worn out by being around people too, and often times we stay within the comfort of the people we know in social situations, rather than making small talk to get to know others.
And what about in the church? I have heard many dear people describe their feelings of ‘aloneness’ in church. They don’t feel a sense of belonging. They don’t feel planted and consequently, they don’t flourish. Sadly church communities can sometimes be cliquey places, and sometimes people can fall through the cracks. When I write about this issue I’m thinking in general terms, and not about any person, church or community that I know of in particular, so if you read this, please don’t be offended!
What can we do to change this culture of cliques in our communities? Well for a start, in this era of social media, we need to be very careful what we share on facebook and the like. If we have a party or other social gathering, perhaps we ought not to share it on social media, for our other friends who haven’t been invited to see. Another good place to start is to simply to be aware of how common this issue is, and to be intentional about reaching out to others. Just as we can help our children to make new friends and to include others in their play, we also need to be friendly, and treat others equally, whether they are someone that we ‘gel’ with, or someone who is a little prickly, the ‘extra grace required’ people. I’m sure that we are all ‘extra grace required’ people at some time or other! Jennifer Dukes Lee writes:
I want to be that kind of Christ follower. I want to be the kind of person who refuses to let one person go unnoticed. I want to be the kind of person who drops everybody to let someone know: “You are worth it.”
People are hungry for love, and our challenge in today’s fast paced world is, in the words of Heidi Baker, to stop for the one. Can we make room in our schedules to stop for the one? If you do feel alone, I hope that this beautiful song by Kari Jobe ministers to your heart.