Longing? Or Belonging?


I’m one of those people who can lay down, close my eyes, and be asleep in 37 seconds flat. It drives my husband bonkers. When it comes to that time – the end of day – when we have the opportunity to say goodbye to one day in preparation for welcoming the next, I’ve found myself with one of two distinct feelings. I’m either consumed with the the void of deep longing, or I’m filled with a sure sense of belonging.

Even the most unique person in the world has an innate need to belong. It’s something we’ve been created with. Our need for belonging can drive what we do each and every day, sometimes to our detriment.

This isn’t going to be a post about how to turn your longing into belonging. Instead, I want to challenge you to influence your world in a way that leaves every person in your wake with the warm hug of belonging.

First, let’s define what it may look like when you leave someone with a sense of longing:

  • Calling someone by a general term (for instance, “Hey, man!”) instead of taking the time to learn their name.
  • Giving your attention to something other than the person in front of you – your phone, the television, etc.
  • Making comments that you think are funny, but actually cause the person to feel alienated.
  • Referring to inside jokes with someone who doesn’t know about them.
  • Making judgement calls about them without attempting to know who they are as a person.

It makes me feel a bit yucky inside just reading that list. Partly because I have been on the receiving end of every one of those scenarios, and partly because I have also been the one who has made those exact mistakes. I’m guessing you quickly had some memories surface where you experienced longing as well.

So let’s talk about the things we can do to help people feel seen and heard, which will lead to a sense of belonging:

  • Remember them – their name, their favorite color, their dog’s name – anything that shows you have listened and listened well.
  • Invite them into something bigger than themselves. This is especially pertinent if you lead people in any capacity – as volunteers, employees, or even family members.
  • Be more interested in who they are and less interested in making sure they know who you are.

Take a moment to take yourself back to a time when you felt as if you belonged.

Where were you?

Who else was there?

What happened that gave you that sense of belonging?

Belonging isn’t something we can keep to ourselves. By its very nature, it must be shared.

What can you do today to help someone embrace belonging and leave the longing behind?


3 thoughts on “Longing? Or Belonging?”

  1. Tanya says:

    Man, I mean Heather, this is so good. I have learned much from you and others about how to make people feel special. Just learning someone’s name says so much about how you value them! I spent most of my life more concerned about being known than knowing others, and it always left me feeling bad, outside. It’s a funny thing how it is virtually impossible to feel like you’re on the outside when you try to draw people in, meshing your worlds. So good, Heather!

    1. Tanya, I love how you worded that. You are spot on that it’s almost impossible to feel like you’re on the outside when you’re busy drawing people in. We all want to be known – it turns out that the best way to be known is to try to know others the best you can.

  2. Cindy Womack says:

    I love this, Heather, and its very timely for me. Yesterday I was in a situation where three of the six people in a van had another area of their lives that intersected. Their discussion, that covered the from seats to the back seat left me, and probably the other two, feeling disconnected. It was ironic as we had just returned from a retreat focused on how to help others feel connected to our ministry.
    More importantly, though, it was a nudge for me to follow-up on a situation where I have been ignoring the conviction over a situation in which I was guilty of the same thing. I guess I need to make a phone call.

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