One day I had lunch with an old friend, and we were catching up with everything our young adult “children” were doing. We had been close when our children were babies, but hadn’t stayed in contact as the kids grew older (we all know how that goes — life just gets busy.) But that day, she opened up over lunch and shared some of the problems they had endured in their home when their kids were teens. I was a little shocked. I had no idea.
When children are babies, moms talk openly about tantrums and misbehavior. Those stages are expected, and no mom holds another mom accountable for “the terrible twos.” But as the kids get older and older, many parents start to hide any problems they are experiencing in the home. If our teens are drinking or using drugs, we may cry ourselves to sleep, but we don’t tell anyone else. Even if it’s something as simple as bad attitudes, sassy words, or broken curfews, we keep that to ourselves because it is a reflection on us. We should have our kids under control by now, shouldn’t we? Rebellious teenagers mean we are failing as parents, right? These aren’t things you discuss over a latte’ or post on Instagram. And no one else’s kids are having trouble — so it must just be our fault; we’ll just keep these things to ourselves. Hide it. Don’t talk about it.
Everything is fine.
And how are you? Just fine? I thought so. Me too.
About a year ago, as I was facilitating a Bible study in my church, I ended the evening by asking for prayer requests. The room of about 20 ladies was quiet for an awkward moment, and then someone said, “My aunt is having surgery tomorrow.” Another moment. “I’m traveling to Florida, please pray for safety.” Silence. I felt weary, and looked around the room as women began to pack up their booklets and pens. I was hurting. My heart had been heavy for days over something my daughter was going through. I took a deep breath, and said, “before we go, can we just pray for my daughter?” I then shared briefly the situation. I didn’t break my daughter’s confidence or reveal too much private information, but I was vulnerable. I was brave. At least, it seemed like courage to me. Sharing in that way, on that level, is not easy for me. But as I finished my story, a woman raised her hand, and said, “My son…” And then another mom, with tears running down her cheek, “My daughter…” By the time we actually bowed our heads to pray, eleven women had become brave, raised their hand, and asked for prayer for their child.
We almost left that room with everyone just “fitting in.” Being what we expected each other to be. Nice. Clean. Tidy. But when I took the chance, and became vulnerable, and said, “Things aren’t tidy. Things are messed up. I need you to pray with me,” something happened in that room. When we were done praying, there were words of encouragement spoken, hugs given, and tears shed. A bonding. A belonging.
Because this yearning [to belong] is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. — Brene’ Brown
Fitting in IS NOT that same as belonging.
Belonging is when you stay connected to your true self, who you really are, as you connect with others. You’re willing to share your successes as well as your failures. Fitting in is when you lose yourself to look, think, and act how you think others want you to look, think, and act.
We need to be who we really are. And ask for what we really need. Vulnerable. Transparent. Brave.
Looks like we might need that cape again.