Everybody wants a place to belong. I think it’s just a natural human trait, we crave the feeling of belonging. We all try to find a tribe, a group of like-minded people that know who we are and welcome us in. The thing is, sometimes we aren’t welcomed in. That feeling of the lunchroom, you just want to have a seat at the table, but don’t have a place where you belong. We then enter this cycle of searching for validation, where it might not be good. We see this all the time in our current time, we have our social media presence desperate for that perfect shot of our life, in order to get a hit of that red notification. The internet is a powerful tool, but because of the internet, mistakes are forever and validation is ever-changing. While you may be popular one moment, the next you are a distant memory in the stream of content. If it’s not online, we tend to push ourselves to fit in with the group. Geek culture is terrible for this, while you’d think it was the most inviting, it can get toxic easily. Your opinion is different than mine? Well I think you’re the worst. So, we start to tell little lies about ourselves, making compromises about our values, and start to lose ourselves.
Everybody just wants to belong.
I’ll never forget one of my favorite memories in high school. My parents had just gotten a job at a new church, and I was going to try out the youth group. I knew a couple people there, but was intimidated because I didn’t have a place to belong when I got there. I showed up, walked into the room, and was immediately talked to by a group of awesome guys. It was a dude with huge curly blonde hair and a bandanna tying it back, and a guy who was dressed like Rivers Cuomo of Weezer. This was Shane and Seth, dressed in this way because there was a Rock Band tournament that night, and they told me they needed one more player for the bass controller. Without saying it, they told me that I belonged here.
It’s a story that seems simple, but it made a world of difference for me, and taught me a couple of things.
No matter what, be who you are.
What’s the point of pretending to be someone you’re not? Danielle and I were recently talking with our friend Shelby, amount Instagram influencers, but more specifically spotting the fakes. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, people with large follower counts on Instagram can be reached out to by companies and market their products. It’s why you’ll sometimes see people showing off a Sunscreen brand and at the end of the post have a “#ad.” The only bad thing is, you can easily buy followers. You can invest money to have your account get boosted, but many times companies won’t look and see that have of your following are bots from around the world, and it tricks companies. People want so desperately to be wanted they are willing to fake it until they make it. Now, I’m not trying to be mean if you have done this in the past, I know that there are moments where I have pretended to be super into sports in order to fit in at a party, and it’s kinda the same thing. We compromise who we are so that we can get, you guessed it, validation.
Don’t lose yourself in order to please others. Once I started being myself, the world changed. I don’t stress myself out to have people like me, I’m not a jerk to people, I just don’t mind if you don’t care about comics and movies. I love those things, and it’s okay if you don’t. In that same vein, I probably don’t like everything you like, but I love getting to hear passionate people talk about their passions. Just be you, it’s the most attractive thing you can do.
Tell others that they have a place at the table.
This is another key I have learned, we might not always feel like we belong, but that’s not stopping us from helping others belong. I love having dinner with people. Sitting down, putting our phones away and just talk. You do something that simple, and you’ll be amazed at how fast you will connect. You could have nothing in common, and have a great conversation. The key to it is, we need to make sure others know they have a place at the table. It’s the feeling you get when you are in a crowd and know no one, but when that one face connects with you, the feelings you had before melt away. Why not be that welcoming person? I love in the bible where it talks about Jesus’ ministry. Most of what he did was help people know they had a place at the table. Mark 2:15-17 says:
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus let others know that there was a place at the table for them. I can guarantee they weren’t sitting and being told what about their lives were wrong, because we don’t stick around with people who judge and hate us. They were probably talking about the crazy weird stories that happened on the fishing trips of the day. Be the person that welcomes you to sit with your group. Be the person who says, “you belong here.”
I know you feel lonely. I know you hate not being able to fit in. Trust me, I’ve been a weirdo for a while now. I’m a guy who loves Jesus, writing, comics, and movies. The thing is, I love every part of me because I was designed by a loving creator. I was made this way so that I could encourage fellow weirdos and misfits. I mean, that’s why I want to plant a church, so that people know they belong in the family of God. You have a place at God’s table. You belong here. Don’t listen to the voices in your head saying you’re not enough, you are more than enough. Take off the mask and stop seeking validation that will only fade with time. Be who you were designed to be and make sure you give others a chance to sit at your table.
You belong here.
About the Author: Joshua Thomas is a writer by day and superhero by night. When he’s not writing and crimefighting, you can find him reading a good book, sipping warm tea, taking pictures, or dreaming. The young writer doesn’t fully know what he’s doing, but is enjoying the journey of it all. You can tweet memes at him on Twitter @joshua_thomas__ or follow his hipster photos and Jack Kerouac musings on Instagram @joshua_thomas__