Lately (literally 4 times this week, at least once a week in the past 3 months, and frequently during my 4-month hiatus this Fall) I’ve been confronted by the question “What does it mean to Belong?” I’ve not come to a solid conclusion yet, so bear with me.
But it haunts me, this question. I have assented to statements of ‘faith’ and not felt I’ve belonged to The Group. Like other healthy persons, I long to belong….but not at any price. I’ve had profound experiences of truly ‘belonging’ to the Holy even when – sometimes even because – I do not agree with a statement laid down by The Organization. I’ve felt nearly dead when I’ve felt I had to leave a group (more than once) because to be true to myself I came to a place of saying “I don’t agree” with whatever the “Belong” requirement was. Conclusion: Assent Belonging. On the other hand, can a person belong without giving assent to a group’s shared statement of purpose?
When it comes to having the right, or responsibility, to be part of the decision-making, ought there to be a check-list of who belongs?
There are implied rights, and responsibilities, to belonging. One gets to be part of the decision-making, but is it enough to attend events, or volunteer, or financially support an organization? Is frequency or quantity thereof part of the criteria? Think Citizenship; maybe not? Think Firefighters; maybe not? Think political party…golf club…sports team. Do I belong to an arts community, or music band, if I do not produce art? Or share an understanding of what “art” or “music” is? Do I belong if I don’t show up to work/practise days? to performance dates or exhibitions? Does belonging hinge on the payment of fees, or contributing financially to the maintenance costs?
Does the criteria for belonging change if the organization is about support and care rather than production? Can anyone be in on decision-making for a hospital, or service agency, for example? What about belonging to a family? Does one still belong without showing up to family events? Can a neighbour belong to the family if they spend more time, or eat, at that house more than at their own? Is belonging to a family dependent on agreeing with a set of values?
If Spirituality is about connection, community, belonging, do the criteria change? Is belonging more than assent to a statement of faith? more than participation? more than finances? Is it any less than any of things?
This is not a vague question. In my work we are coming up to weeks of decision-making meetings and sometimes who gets to votes is determined by who ‘belongs’? It matters, this notion of belonging, because it feels like it also determines who is valued, who gets to make decisions? And I’m not sure those are the same thing.
I heard recently that belonging is about feeling comfortable to be yourself, to make a contribution to the well-being of the whole.
How do you understand what it means to ‘belong”?
…More food for thought
from British Holistic Medical Association