August 16th, 2011
In the course of researching an article for the Church Times on small groups I read an interesting book, "The Search to Belong: Rethinking intimacy, community and small groups" by Joseph R. Myers. His thesis owes a lot to the work of Edward T. Hall, a sociologist who identified four spaces in which we develop personalities, culture and communication, each relating to a distance:
Public: 12+ feet
Social: 4 to 12 feet
Personal: 18 inches to 4 feet
Intimate: 0 to 18 inches
Myers contends that churches encourage all relationships into the intimate space, and communicate that this space is found in a housegroup. He thinks this is a mistake. A sense of belonging and community can be found in each space.
I can see this turning into a bit of an essay, so let me cut myself off at the pass and just say this: maybe sometimes we feel more isolated and alone than we are, because we overlook or undervalue some of the vital networks we belong to, thinking that it is only the intimate relationships that count. Depression can talk you into thinking you are all alone in the world, but it is very unlikely that you are. Look around you. When I look around me, these are the places I belong:
my church, my neighbourhood, my daughter's preschool and soon to be school, my family, England, the Tiny Tots committee, Slimming World in Beaconsfield, my housegroup, my Regent friends, my university friends, my facebook friends, A Rocha... and that is just a beginning.
Do you feel you belong? And if you do, does this help you fight off the blues?
Leave your commentMartin~ August 16th, 2011 ~ 13:08
Hi! This is something that was touched on at a Christian men's conference I went to - specifically thinking about how churches try to usher men straight into 'intimate' spaces, which many men are not comfortable with, preferring to meet in social spaces such as a pub or sporting event.
As for me, I have no problem with personal or intimate spaces, but even without those, I feel I belong in my social circle. I haven't attended a church for a while, but I (half)joked recently that the pub I go to is my 'church' - that's where I meet my friends and the people I love. It's where we share time and catch up. Since finding this 'community', it has definitely helped me deal with the blues a lot better! It's good to know that there is usually someone around if I don't want to be alone, even if we only meet in a public or social space. :)
paula~ August 21st, 2011 ~ 20:08
I think there also has to be a degree of acceptance within the community before we can feel we 'belong'. We may attend a toddler group, but if I am a single parent and the toddler group is full of yummy mummies who don't accept me; I don't feel I belong, or vice versa a professional working mother going to a toddler group on a housing estate full of unemployed people may feel uneasy. Same with styles of church, if I am a quiet deep thinking intellectual and attend a 10 minute preaching all happy clappy charismatic church I may not feel I belong; if I am an emotional exhuberant demonstrative person who attends a reformed presbyterian church and raises my hands and claps during the songs - I again may not feel I belong.
I am sure that feeling you belong goes a LONG way to beating the blues - but belonging doesn't come automatically because you have something in common with the rest of the group... if you know what I mean!
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