Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else. — Brene Brown
I hope Brene Brown is not a stranger to you. Her work as an author, speaker, academic and researcher has been widely applauded. She studies courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. Probably her best-known book is The Power of Vulnerability, with teachings on authenticity, connection and courage.
As I reflected on this issue’s theme of unity, I found myself going back to Brown’s work. To me, the ideas of unity, belonging and fitting in can get knotted up together or at least bump up against each other.
I’ve wondered: What is the value of unity without belonging? When we talk about unity, do we really mean conformity — or fitting in, as Brown names it? How much difference is acceptable within unity?
The answers to these questions will vary from person to person. For myself, I hope that if unity is what we strive for, it is the kind of unity that cultivates belonging.
By allowing and encouraging each other to be our genuine selves, we create glimpses of the divine. As we are created in God’s image, we most accurately reflect God when we can show up in joy, safety and authenticity.
And yet, I’m not convinced unity should always be the goal. I think there are valid reasons for separation. I don’t claim to know when and how to define those reasons. But I think it takes great courage and wisdom to know when to step away or to release someone else.
May we find unity that brings true belonging and trust that the Holy Spirit is at work even in spaces where we choose not to be