Have you ever:
- not been in on the joke?
- been picked last for the team?
- been looked over for an invitation to an event that many around you were invited to?
- felt like you just didn't belong?
Many, probably most, of us go through things like this in our youth. We are familiar with that pang that comes when we feel like we are on the outside looking in, like we have nothing to contribute.
We've probably all felt it, and might even be feeling it now. Sometimes we feel it even as adults, even in the church. This makes me sad.
With social media such a part of our lives today, the chances that you are going to be “found out” when you exclude someone are pretty good. Even if our secret societies are kept off of social media, people talk — and almost always people who have been excluded do find out they've been excluded. And when they find out, it can hurt.
I look at my sisters at church as my friends. Some of them are closer to me than others, certainly, but I love them all and I want them to know I love them and value them and want to get to know them better. I would feel awful if I found out I had inadvertently hurt feelings by not including someone when I could have.
This can be tricky. After all, if every sister in my ward came to my party, we wouldn't all fit in my house! Besides, some of them don't know me very well and they wouldn't care to come anyway, right?
Don't be so sure.
You never know who might be really needing a friend, a social event, a night away from the kids, the dishes, the roommates, the husband…just away from it all.
So, how do you handle tricky social situations in the church?
I'm not perfect at it, but I do have a few ideas:
- Try to invite different people to different events instead of the same people all the time. Get to know people who you might perceive as different from you.You might not really “click” with the person, but at least you tried. And who knows, you might make a great friend this way!
- If you are going to be inviting a sizable number from your ward, invite everyone in that peer group. For example, a baby shower where you are inviting half the sisters in the ward. In my opinion, just invite all the sisters in the whole ward, or at least all of those in that age group. Those who don't know the person well won't come anyway (and if they do – hey! another gift and another friend!), but this way you are certain to not exclude anyone that should have made your list but didn't. If you need to change your venue in order to make this work or recruit another friend to help with food, at least consider it.
- Ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen if I invite everyone?” The answer to that will probably be you won't have enough space or you'll run out of food. Then ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen if I invite 20 sisters from the ward but leave 30 sisters out?” The answer to this one could be much more impactful.
Those are just a few of my thoughts, and in the spirit of inclusion I'd love to hear yours as well!