I listened to a sermon about belonging by Kris Vallotton last week—and then I listened to it two more times.
He talked about what it looks like to “come and be you” in the context of the Church (Christ's entire body of believers). I’ll be real—belonging is something I’m struggling with right now.
I’m not falling victim to the “I’m not good enough” kinds of thought. No, my battle is waging in the “I feel like people are offended by who I am” arena, and if I'm not careful, I plunge deep into "I feel like I can't please anyone" waters. At that point, I find myself trying to adjust who I am to appease the people who seem upset with me. Obviously, this never works and is always exhausting.
The great irony is that some people also feel the need to walk on eggshells around me. I have a friend who is unbelievable gifted at creating "space" for people to be whoever they are... and feel comfortable, accepted, and loved. (I don't know if she even knows she does it.) I can only pray that God molds me in a similar kind of way.
For some of you, this confession may be surprising. For others, perhaps you’ve walked enough road with me to know what I’m talking about.
I’m notoriously bold with my thoughts and words. I have little fear when it comes to telling people what I believe to be true, and over the last year or two, I've been working hard to offer my opinion only when its solicited and/or Spirit-led. (I've yet to perfect this.) Tony has further taught me that solicitations must be filtered and discerned, meaning that sometimes, people ask, but they don't really want to know (consciously or subconsciously).
I'm wrestling with exactly that right now: filters and discernment. And therein lies my problem. If I don't filter and discern accurately, I walk away from conversations feeling really bad about giving honest answers. Then, I fight the lie that who I am is wrong.
I sat with one of our mentors yesterday. She recommended a book called Fierce Conversations. “Perhaps you just need to refine something that you’re already willing to do,” she said.
“There are empathy people, and then there are truth-telling people,” she carried on. “Realizing that I’m a truth-teller friend was huge revelation for me.” As Betsy continued rattling off wisdom about life's rhythms and growing pains, I felt my throat tightening. Tears welled up.
She looked up at me from the journal she was sketching and writing on. Tears welled up in her own eyes. “This is really, really hard stuff. There’s grief.”
I am called to be fierce, bold, a speaker of truth. Of that, I’m certain.
But God, refine me.
Kris Vallotton quoted Brene Brown for what seemed like the first 30 minutes of his message. For those of you who’ve never listened to her Ted Talk on vulnerability, gift yourself today with those 20 potent minutes of wisdom.
Here’s what Kris had to say about Brene’s six-year work on society:
• Every single person is neurologically wired for connection.
• The core desire of every human being is to feel connected (to belong).
• The #1 enemy of connection: shame.
• Conviction says you did something wrong. Shame says you are something wrong.
• Whatever your environment values, you fear that you will not measure up to it.
In my case, I often fear that I'm not mainstream enough. I fear that I'm too serious and deep. I fear that people will disapprove of my incessant desire to ask hard questions and lean into growth.
As I understand it, Brene did another five-year study on shame. Here’s what she found:
• All people have experienced shame.
• Some walk out of shame. Others stay in it.
• Those who walk out of shame have one thing in common: vulnerability.
• Those who are willing to be vulnerable have three things in common:
1. Worthiness: They know deep down that they are loved.
2. Courage (rooted in the Latin word for “heart”): They are willing to tell their story with their hearts.
3. Authenticity: They let go of who they think they should be in order to be who they really are.
They know that they're loved. They're willing to tell their story with their whole hearts. They let go of who they think they should be... in order to be who they really are.
Kris went on to say that what makes you vulnerable is what makes you beautiful. “When you get to heaven, God isn’t going to ask you why you don’t look like Moses. He’s going to ask you why you don’t look like you.”
And then, he delivered possibly the most profound concept of the hour: “Unity in the house of man means that we all look alike. It says, ‘If you want to be a part of us, you have to be like us.’ Unity in the house of God is not conformity, but rather, a celebration of diversity. In the house of God, you take on the shape you were created to take on. You get to come, and be you (Romans 12:4-8).”
Here are eight things that Kris said belonging requires:
1. I carry the family name. Meaning: I have an identity.
2. I am known. Meaning: I have a community.
3. I am accepted. Meaning: I have a people.
4. I am valued. Meaning: I am significant.
5. I have shared ownership. Meaning: I have a place.
6. I have shared responsibility. Meaning: I have a role.
7. I have common core values. Meaning: I think alike. (not referring to the “clone zone”)
8. I have the same vision. Meaning: I have a common purpose.
If you’re struggling with belonging, I highly encourage you to listen to Brene’s Ted Talk, and then to Kris’s sermon. You can access both of them here:
A final word: If you start digging into these things in your own life, I encourage you to remember grace. Processes can be messy, and without receiving daily grace from the Father, it’s easy to get buried beneath the weight of our own burdens (Matthew 11:30).
Thank you for reading and for being a part of the Yebo Life journey. So much love to all of you.