There are few memories from junior high that sting as much as one awful moment in seventh grade.
The desire to be included in the popular group led to hurting a real friend. How did we know we were part of the “in” crowd? Your name had to appear on “the note.” “The note” listed your four top friends, and in my attempt to fit into the popular crowd, I listed four popular girls, but did not include my sweet, humble, quiet best friend. Sadly, I’m sure you can imagine the note landed into the wrong hands and my sweet friend saw her name was not listed. The pain on her face, the mistake I had made, the damage done still stings when I think about it all these years later.
Why did I risk a true friendship for the alleged popular crowd? Because I believed the world’s view of what being included meant. The inclusion I was searching for, what I thought would bring me more joy and status, was not real. The friendship I had all along with my best friend was what was true and real.
Everyone wants to be included. Everyone wants to be known.
Being included matters. Sometimes the greatest gift you can give a person is to include them. There is no better example to us than Jesus Himself. He spent His days on earth with the most unlikely people. The tax collectors, lepers, adulterers, and a rag-tag bunch of men. He did not hang out with the rich and famous, or with people who were most like Him or people who made Him feel the most comfortable. Granted, we do tend to flock to those who are most like us, but if we are to be living Christ-like lives, shouldn’t we be looking for ways to include others? Those people who may be more difficult to love, those who aren’t just like us?
The world tells us there is always something bigger and better, “greener on the other side”, but often what we really need is right before our eyes. The Lord puts people on our path for a reason. Sometimes the reason is because we will benefit in some way, and other times those people are in our lives to gain something from us. Therefore, we must be open to including all – those we click with and those we don’t.
Teaching our children to include others is an on-going process.
1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
It is important to teach our children to look at others the way the Lord does.
- The first way to accomplish this is by modeling it for them. Seeing inclusion in action is a powerful teacher.
- Secondly, we need to look for opportunities to create space in our lives and activities for others. That might take a little re-prioritizing and it might be a little uncomfortable. But that’s all part of it – learning to be comfortable with being a little uncomfortable, showing our children that their comfort is not what’s the most important thing.
When we are inclusive, it gives the Lord an opportunity to change hearts and reveal Himself in a mighty way.
Our hearts will be changed, and those included will be, as well. Jesus can change our perspective, our lives will become richer, and our relationships will be deeper.
Give someone the gift of including them today.
See what the Lord will do in you both.