“He could not return to living full-time with the Dursleys, not now that he knew the other world, the one to which he really belonged.” ― J.K. Rowling
If we can utter the words I’m a member, we are also saying that we are not outsiders, not visitors, and that we belong. It would seem that almost everyone is looking for a place to belong. If we need to belong somewhere, perhaps that is where we find our value. Once we have stepped outside of where we have always been, we might discover, much as Harry Potter did, that we find a world in which we belong.
It’s possible that we have been told we must belong to a certain group. It’s also possible that by being a member, we believe we have value, and removing ourselves from that membership is frightening because several things could happen: we risk being seen as an outsider, we risk being treated differently, and the riskiest outcome is that we might see ourselves as being without value. The greater truth, though, could be that remaining in the club, church, group, team, or gang actually keeps you from knowing who you really are, and in that knowledge you discover your true value.
For years, I was in a club or some sort of group, but I always found it difficult to be a good member. There was no freedom for me to really express myself unless my self-expression fell under the guidelines of the organization. I fraternized when I shouldn’t have (and I was young enough to have to look up the word to understand my misdeed), I later fraternized with the wrong group (and I understood exactly what they meant). My membership in other organizations has met with hurt oftentimes, and instead of blaming the organizations I’ll just say that I’m not a good match. Today, I hold a membership in a marriage and in a family, and I’m hopeful that those are memberships I’ll hold until I die.
People want to belong, though.There are several studies that have pointed to our need to belong as a primal need that lends itself to our being happy. More than being happy is not being unhappy. Many people find that when they don’t belong to something they feel lonely, isolated, and devalued. What better reason to want to belong?
I watched a video of a mother who left a religious group where the living situation involved a father with multiple wives and children. The courts ordered that she could have custody of her children, so she returned to retrieve her children. While the people who lived there were not hostile to her, they were not friendly. They surrounded her van to prevent her from being able to leave the van. It was not a happy picture for the members or the non-member. Obviously then, being a member in some groups does not bring happiness, and being a nonmember certainly can bring isolation.
There are times membership is a relationship that brings a win for both sides–the member has a place to belong and the organization has someone who represents what it stands for. Maybe you were in Boy Scouts until you were twelve and finally felt like it had lost its appeal for you. Were you made to stay and see it through? Commitment is important and has value, but so does personal growth and happiness. If we force our children to belong to groups or force ourselves to remain in groups that no longer serve them or us as they once did, we damage the organization and the person–namely us.
Today, I invite you to look at what you have joined just because you wanted a place to belong. Are you paying dues to a health club and never going? Are you going to meetings that leave you feeling like you wish you were somewhere else? For those on the outside, longing for a membership somewhere, there is a club, church, or group for you. For those who long to be unencumbered by the expectations of an entire group, outside of your job, perhaps this is the time for you to step back and consciously choose what serves you.
If we are afraid to walk away from a membership, we need to look at what our real reason is for staying. Do we fear our social status will change? Will people like us less? Will we possibly discover that by changing our membership we might also discover another place to belong that feeds our needs and allows us to serve gladly? If we serve a wonderful organization but have a heart full of resentment, we really aren’t serving them at all. Sometimes, we need a new group and sometimes we need no group. Life is a journey full of wonderful people and awesome opportunities. Harry discovered a place where he felt he belonged, but he had to leave where he had been to find it.