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“Does everyone feel like they don’t fit in?”
I sniffled as I wiped my snotty nose across my sleeve and buried my head once again.
“I know that’s how I feel,” my husband said.
We lingered in that tension together for a moment, feeling the sadness and loneliness that comes from time to time when you have to face the fact everyone will not like you all the time, that people will misunderstand you, and that true, meaningful connection can feel like trying to nail jello to a tree.
We shouldn’t base our sense of value on whether or not everyone likes us right this moment.
I’m well past the torturous middle school years where figuring out how to fit in is about as hard as securing the gold medal in weightlifting. I have a
family and a close circle of friends, but sometimes I still feel like a square peg trying to jam myself into this old, round world. I let you peek into that very private moment because I know you feel that way sometimes, too. Lean in. I want to tell you a secret.
At some point or another, everyone feels like they don’t fit in.
That girl who is always the center of attention? Believe it or not, sometimes she feels like she doesn’t fit in. Your parents? Yep, they feel it, too.
Those famous people on magazine covers who are so popular that paparazzi jump out of bushes to take their picture? They feel left out sometimes, too.
The next time you feel like the president of the “I Don’t Fit In Club,” remember these three truths.
Truth #1: Sometimes, Fitting In Is a Trap
Proverbs 29:25 says it this way: “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.”
“Fear of man” doesn’t exactly mean being afraid of people in this passage. It means living your life to please others. It means doing whatever you have to to fit in or being overly anxious that people won’t like you. The Bible calls that approach to acceptance a snare because we can easily find ourselves trapped and tripped up by the expectations of others.
Here are a few questions to help you think through if you’ve been snared by “fear of man.”
- Am I willing to compromise my beliefs in order to avoid being embarrassed or made fun of?
- Do I obsess when someone is mad at me or does not like me?
- Am I more concerned about being the right friend or having the right friends?
- Do I need people to like my posts online in order to feel okay?
Truth #2: Fitting In Is Fickle
Jesus’ life shows us that the crowd’s acceptance waxes and wanes. While He was busy teaching more than 5,000 people who flocked to hear Him preach ( Matt. 14:13-21), a smaller crowd was gathered to talk about how much they hated Him (Matt. 16:1). One day the people of His hometown were throwing Him a parade (Matt. 21:1-11), the next they were calling for His execution (Matt. 26:66).
Jesus’ story gives me acceptance whiplash. He was in; He was out. He was loved; He was hated. He was accepted; He was rejected.
Though not on the same scale, this pattern will be repeated in our lives. Do you feel like you’ve got the friend thing totally figured out? That’s great,
but know there may be seasons of loneliness and rejection ahead. Are you feeling left out and alone? Stick it out, girl! God may insert you in a close
circle of accepting friends tomorrow.
Since we know that fitting in ebbs and flows, we shouldn’t base our sense of value on whether or not everyone likes us right this moment.
Truth #3: You Were Made to Stick Out, Not Fit In
Here’s how Jesus describes you:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house” (Matt. 5:14-15).
A city on a hill sticks out. It gets noticed. It does not blend into the landscape. In the same way, as a Christian you will stick out. You will not blend
in. Hopefully, you won’t look like, live like, or think like everyone else does. That is bound to push you out of a few groups.
Jesus says, “Don’t cover up what makes you different. Let it shine!”
There’s another side to this coin. Some people will reject you because you are a Christian. Jesus says when we face that kind of rejection, we need to do a happy dance.
“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets” (Luke 6:22–23).
Even if we don’t fit in anywhere else, we fit in with Jesus.
What should we do when we are hated, excluded, criticized, dismissed, or rejected? Jesus says we should leap for joy. Why? First, because we are in good company. The heros of our faith including Jesus Himself faced similar treatment. But also because He will make it right when we are mistreated for His name’s sake. Even if we don’t fit in anywhere else, we fit in with Jesus.
I admit that imagining Moses being made fun of or Luke being laughed at doesn’t always give us the warm fuzzy we’re looking for when we’re feeling left out. But we can still put Jesus’ words into practice. Here’s how.
What to Do The Next Time You Feel Left Out
With these three truths in mind, what should you do the next time you feel left out? Here are a few ideas.
- Ask the Lord to show you how He feels about you. Remind yourself that He loves and accepts you.
- Make a list of where you do fit in. Your family? Your youth group? I bet you’ll find that the list of people who love and accept you is longer than you think.
- Think of someone else who might be feeling left out, and reach out to them.
- Grab a biography of someone who faced rejection because of their faith. A few of my heroes on this list would be Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther, and Pastor Saeed Abedini. Their stories will inspire you!
- Write Jesus a letter thanking Him for the rejection He faced on your behalf.
- Imagine that city on a hill that Jesus described you as. How can you shine brightly for Him?
What else can you do to turn your heart toward the truth about fitting in? I’d love to hear your ideas below.