“We betray our identity and purpose, the world and the people we are called to impact if we remain tied to ways we no longer believe in”
Words by Craig Wilkinson and Billy Selekane
Everyone has a deep need to belong, to be part of something that gives them a sense of identity and validation. We will often go to great lengths to find a sense of belonging. There are a myriad overlapping and intertwining groups that we belong to which contribute to the way people identify us; our nationality, gender, religion, culture, ethnicity, political affiliation, sexual orientation, socio-economic standing, education ….. the list is endless. Yet at our core, we are all unique individuals, with a unique set of values, beliefs, desires, likes, dislikes, skills, passions and purpose. And sometimes there is conflict between being true to ourselves and being true to the group or groups we belong to.
Belonging has a price.
We all have a story. And in our story, there is pain and pleasure, joy and sadness, shame and pride, winning and losing, gain and loss. Some life stories are horrendous, reading like the script of a horror movie; others are dramatic, reading like a soap opera, and yet others are easier, reading more like a sitcom. Whatever our story is, it belongs to us and is part of us. We need to own and honour our stories. But we need to make sure our stories don’t own us or define us. There is something more powerful than our stories, and that is our will; the power to choose and change the current and future narrative of our lives.
It is the mark of every great man and woman that they refused to become a victim of their past and instead used the lessons from their life stories to build a new story, for themselves, their loved ones and the world they lived in.
Our roots are very important but sometimes fulfilling purpose requires uprooting and re-rooting. If the values and ways of our predecessors are not the values and ways we would like to live out and build on we need to challenge them. This is often a great dilemma. It can feel as though we are betraying our identity. But the truth is we are not. We betray our identity and purpose, the world and the people we are called to impact if we remain tied to ways we no longer believe in; ways that no longer serve the world we live in and build the kind of society we want for our children.
We need to be honest with our stories and all that was taught and modeled to us growing up. We need to see the good and the bad in our histories, the wrong and the right, the elements of our stories and our roots that are empowering and those that are disempowering. The man or woman that is destined for true greatness is the one who is able to see what was false and disempowering in his or her own foundation and recognize and acknowledge what is true and empowering elsewhere.
A man with a true heart is able to see the bad in his brothers and call it out, and see the good in his enemies and acknowledge it. That is greatness. Blindly supporting someone or something which is clearly wrong just to belong is dishonest and a betrayal of yourself and your values. Great men and women of history pursued the truth even when it hurt, they risked offending their family, their countrymen and their own brothers because they had a higher calling. Their calling was to the universal brotherhood of man, not limited to ethnicity, political, national or religious affiliation. They were not driven by the need to belong but by the pursuit of love and truth.
We live in a world that has become so politically correct that we are scared of the truth. As a result, the truth too often gets sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. We go along with cultural norms, political expectations, and societal demands just to belong, to be part of, to avoid being seen as a sell-out, maverick or outlier. The truth is that our need to belong can sabotage our purpose and slowly poison our soul. The purpose and destiny for which we were made slowly shrinks and dies as we sell out to belong. Instead of being the powerful salmon that swims upstream to spawn the next generation of leaders we become the dead fish that floats downstream and makes no impact on the world at all.