People are social beings. We always align around each other in the form of teams, tribes, groups, families, and clubs. Smaller social groups give us a sense of belonging, acceptance and approval. These are some of our deepest soul-based desires and for this reason, our tribes become vital to our own identity and sense of self.
Those with the social, economic, political, or religious power get to dictate the rules of the group and define who ultimately belongs. This is true whether we are talking about world religion or a junior high click. For every group, there is always a process of assimilation where an outsider can become an insider. The degree to which we seek assimilation correlates to our assessment of the groups ability to provide us with our deep desire of acceptance and identity.
But what happens when an insider decides to be an outsider? Sometimes the group identity is not what it promised. Sometimes the tribe errors in how it manages issues of social justice. What happens when we simply disagree with or outgrow our group?
Unfortunately, the one who questions the establishment is always cast by the group as a dissident. Those who would leave are viewed as deficient, flunky’s or those who just never “got it.” The result is estrangement.
Estrangement is defined as no longer being on friendly terms with the group. Despite the best intentions of those who outgrow their container, those who are in power within the system can only sustain their power and the security of the group if the one who leaves is viewed as deficient or in someway a problem. Those in power can then withhold any provisions for validation, acceptance, and worst of all identity. It tremendously unloving.
The main reason so many people who question their system end up staying in it, even though they are not fully convinced by it, is the requirement to find a new identity. The fear of the unknown is far greater for many than the limitations of the group. And even though the tribe gives sparingly, it does give something and for many that is better than not knowing. Often its just easier to stay in a bad relationship, dead-end job, dysfunctional church, or unsatisfying group than to build our life outside of it. So we talk ourselves into staying because that is what the group would have us do.
The ministry of this blog and podcast is designed specifically for those who find themselves in this liminal space (transitional period). Estranged people are everywhere and that is because people are constantly outgrowing one system and entering another. The world is full of malcontents because consciousness is on the rise, not the other way around.
It’s unfortunate that systems lack the ability to see liminal space as a graduation into bigger things and resort to name calling and withholding kindness. This is because a system is always looking out for its own best interests, it is the nature of the beast. When Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God, he was talking about a community of people who were called-out of small systems into one with a new set of rules that governed people from the inside-out. The called out ones (ek-kaleo) is where we get our word for Church (ekklesia).
I would like to encourage you to not lose heart during your journey through estrangement. Whatever you do, don’t abandon your pursuit. Something much bigger than you is calling you into a bigger, wider, and more inclusive space. There are many, many people out there waiting for you to join them, who can and will embrace you. Furthermore the identity you gain will be one of freedom and authenticity. It is always a spiritual path.
The journey through estrangement is the Christ journey even if you don’t recognize it as such or even care to call it that. Throughout all of scripture and many sacred texts, the leaving of the kindred or the abandonment by those closest to us is the basis for the humiliation of our pride. It’s when we finally shed our false identity (the one imposed by the system) that we find our true self. It is the epicenter of faith and trust in that voice or power that inspires us beyond the walls of our system.
I’m convinced that this is the only path to God. Its a constricted path and not the easy wide road. It’s via dolorosa. It’s the walk to Emmaus. It’s the night under the Bodi tree, and it’s a thousand other metaphors, stories, and locations. If you find yourself there, count yourself very lucky, for you are graduating into your truest self and deepest soul.
You are in good company.