For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to fit in. In elementary school, as teacher after teacher butchered my name on the first day, I secretly wished that I had a more “normal” name that wasn’t so hard to pronounce. In middle school when kids were wearing name-brand clothes and shoes and I was still rocking whatever my mom could afford from the cheapest discount retailer, I secretly wished that we had more money (because I thought that’s what brought friends). And in high school, when everyone who I perceived to be popular looked a certain way (and it wasn’t brown like me) and did certain things (that I had been taught in church were wrong), I couldn’t help but feel like I didn’t belong.
That longing for belonging is real, and I believe it is not isolated to grade school or adolescence or even being a minority. Whether it’s our looks, our beliefs, our religion, our marital status, our salary, our sexuality (and the list could go on and on), we’re constantly looking to fit in to what society has defined as normal or acceptable. We’ve come to believe that there is a way to fit in and belong, and if we don’t, we’re ostracized. We’re outcasts. We see it in our schools. We see it in our neighborhoods. And sadly, way too often, we see it in our church circles and congregations.
What are your first thoughts when you see a person covered in tattoos sitting in the church pew beside you? How do you respond to the pregnant, unwed mother sitting alone in the back row of Relief Society? How do you speak of the family whose loved one recently came out as gay?
We have to start doing this “love one another” thing better
I’m an observer. I don’t talk much and I rarely speak up, but I do pay attention to people. I’ve personally observed the scenarios I described above play out in church. And the responses have not always been good. In fact, some of the reactions were so judgmental and detrimental that some of those back-row sitting people I referred to above (loved ones of mine) are no longer active participants in the Church. They didn’t feel like they belonged. They didn’t feel like there was a place for them in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As a parent, I worry about whether or not my kids will fit in or be ridiculed or shunned for how they look, believe, or act. It’s why I found great comfort in the messages shared by Elder D. Todd Christofferson in the video “Is There a Place for Me?”