Creating Belonging for Others
This is the third and final post in this series about belonging. To want to belong is a fundamental part of being human. In Belonging: Part 1, I discussed the desire to belong and have a healthy sense of belonging. In Belonging: Part 2, I gave examples of healthy belonging and included ideas on how to create a sense of belonging in one’s life, especially during the holidays. This third post will continue that theme by coaching us on how to foster healthy belonging among others in our circle of influence or within our identity groups.
How Do I Create Belonging For Others?
One of the delightful results of experiencing our own growth and healing is that we often want to share what we’ve learned with those we love. After learning new ways of thinking or behaving, we feel a new sense of peace and joy, then we wonder if our partner, child, parent or dear friend would benefit from what we’ve learned. In a sense, we are eager to create a sense of belonging with that dear one because we’ve just absorbed something vital and encouraging, and it motivates us to look beyond ourselves. In that manner, we are eager to create belonging in someone else.
So then why does it sometimes seem difficult to create that sense of belonging? Because it takes time and is learned through imitation, not through books or even blog articles! We learn best as we watch someone model those crucial relational skills. Here are some thoughts to get you started in the process of fostering healthy belonging in your community:
1) Creating belonging works best if we have first experienced a secure bond with one other person (1). We begin to create belonging for others by building a healthy and safe bond for ourselves and one other person, at which point we understand what belonging feels like. As we grow in confidence in our belonging with one other person, we can add one or more to our circle. This is one of the nineteen brain maturity skills from the Life Model (2) which begins in infancy. This is when a baby bonds with her primary caregivers. Creating bonds for two (myself plus one other) gives us the foundation to know we are valued and can value others, regardless of our faults or rough edges. Then we can extend this to our group as we share belonging with them.
2) Recognize that extending genuine hospitality fosters a sense of belonging for others. Extending hospitality is not necessarily about inviting someone over for dinner or meeting them at your favorite restaurant. Genuine hospitality embraces so much more and in some ways, is much simpler to create with others. It does not require us to stage elaborate decorating schemes or cook gourmet meals. True hospitality can be as simple as inviting someone into your life in small portions, sharing a bit about what you’re thinking or feeling, and letting someone see the real you. This definition of hospitality is giving a warm smile, having our eyes light up to show happiness when seeing someone, or empathizing with a child’s feelings at the moment.
Have you ever found yourself deciding to share something with a friend that recently impacted you? If so, you were showing authentic hospitality to that friend by inviting them into your inner world. The Life Model calls this hospitality experience “relational joy.”
Researchers have discovered that there is an area of your brain that only grows in response to relational joy. We experience this joy when we see faces light up at seeing us, and we sense that we are the reason for the sparkle in their eyes (3, p.13).
As Christmas approaches, it is helpful to note that we often feel stressed and overwhelmed during preparation for holiday gatherings because of the pressure to create the perfect ambience, meal, or family event. It is so helpful to realize that belonging and hospitality can be expressed in much simpler ways throughout the year!
3) Creating a sense of belonging allows us to include others who may not be the same as us. Creating a sense of belonging with someone else does not mean they must be similar to us. In fact, a transformative community is one that is willing to include people who have different levels of maturity or who are in different life stages. In a transformative community, those interactions are supportive and accepting of others’ unique contributions (4). If we only interact with our peers who share the same socio-economic, age, or marital status, or the same cultural or ethnic background, we lose the chance to grow in union with others who can dramatically increase our joy, and in whom we can create belonging. When we create belonging within a diverse community we have the opportunity to do things like channel the energy of rowdy youngsters or exhibit patience with the increasing frailties of the elderly.
4) The best advertisement that invites others into a healthy sense of belonging occurs when we model it for them! When we are comfortable sharing ourselves with others and making them feel welcome, they may become curious about how we’ve managed to be so open and welcoming (5). They can learn from our interactions and watch us include, invite and accept others. “When relational skills are present, we can pass each skill onto the people we love (4, p.182). As they watch us model these skills with them, they imitate us and in turn, will feel more comfortable sharing a sense of belonging with others in their own lives.
5) An effective way to build a sense of belonging is through sharing “joy” stories. Sharing our stories helps us build joy together, which leaves us feeling a greater sense of belonging. Self-help group members share authentic struggles and victories and feel supported. Sports teams recount their wins and appreciate team effort. Within a faith community, members share joy stories about times they felt God was near. Because belonging means including others, creating a group identity, and living out our shared experiences, our shared joy stories help foster emotional connection between us. As our bonds with others become healthier, we more naturally share our appreciation stories with each other, and we increase joy around us.
One Final Thought
The greatest story ever told about belonging is the story of how God modeled belonging for us when He loved us and redeemed us though we, as humans, had no thoughts of Him at all. He created space for us to be included into his family. The story of God’s redemption through His Son Jesus moves us beyond ourselves and warms our hearts when we think about a transcendent Being who extends grace, forgiveness, mercy, peace, and belonging to humans.
For Further Study and Growth of Belonging
Identity groups are those groups that remind others (and ourselves) who we are called to be. They showcase our true identity and encourage us to stay aligned with that identity. At the Center for Family Transformation we offer Identity Groups throughout the year for this purpose; please feel free to contact us for more information.
Deeper Walk International offers Journey Groups online or in person where you can develop your relational skills within a healthy, joy-filled faith community. Follow the link here to find a Journey Group or to learn more.
As you read through this series on belonging, we hope you have benefitted from this 3-part series on belonging. Our intention is that you would come away with a deeper, richer understanding of our need to belong and what healthy belonging looks like as explained in Belonging: Parts 1 and 2. Maybe you’d like to take some steps to create belonging for others which we’ve just discussed in this final post, Part 3. Whatever stage you are at, you can know that this is a journey for a lifetime and we would be happy to help you navigate your own journey toward living your best life!
- Coursey, C. (2016). Transforming fellowship: 19 brain skills that build joyful community (2 ed.). Holland, MI: THRIVEtoday.
- Friesen, J. G., Wilder, E. J., Bierling, A. M., Koepcke, R., & Poole, M. (2010). Living from the heart Jesus gave you. Pasadena, CA: The Shepherd’s House.
- Warner, M., & Coursey, C. (2021). The 4 habits of raising joy-filled kids: A simple model for developing your child’s maturity – at every stage. Chicago: Northfield Publishing.
- Wilder, E. J., Khouri, E. M., Coursey, C. M., & Sutton, S. D. (2014). Joy starts here: The transformation zone. East Peoria, IL: Shepherd’s House, Inc.
- Wilder, J., & Hendricks, M. (2020). The other half of church: Christian community, brain science, and overcoming spiritual stagnation. Chicago: Moody Publishers.