There is a dichotomy in this question or quest, if you will. “Fitting in” calls for a person to make a choice of accepting a set of ideals that belong to a certain group of people in the community. These set of ideals should match those of oneself to truly fit in. These ideals should coincide with the person’s moral values that have been formed from his beginning.
Recently, I witnessed this in my youngest child who feels left out at the school she attends. Complaining that they all talk too much in class, act catty and selfish, I realized that what was really going on here was that she was on the outside looking in and knowing both that she really didn’t like these kids and at the same time feeling the pain of being left out of this cozy circle of friendships.
As human beings we are relational creatures. We thrive on interaction. We know this from the story of creation in the Bible. Adam found himself alone, but not happy about it. God saw that he was not happy and in fact alone, so He created Eve as a companion. Yes, there are those who live alone, but surely you see them surrounded by friends and loved ones often.
So, it’s hard to see someone not belonging somewhere in some place in her world. Sadness and longing are true and painful emotions to experience even for a brief moment, but to continually feel these emotions can have lasting effects on a person. It breaks my heart when it is one of my own loved ones. Well-meaning relatives can try to help, but forcing friendships can hardly be successful.
The basic problem here is the common threads of character, conscience, and moral values. These traits are what brings and keeps relationships strong and lasting. These classmates are bad; however, they have a different set of common values that my child doesn’t share. My parents always told us kids that we needed to be careful who we made friends with because as the old adage goes, “you are who you hang with”. This couldn’t be truer! So who do you want to develop a friendship with? Who are the people that you would want your children to associate with? As parents and mentors to the next generation we have a responsibility in this area to teach and guide our young charges in the direction of positive and good character. For these qualities is what will attract them to others. A bit daunting, you say? Oh yes, but a job that must be done for the good of these young people and for the whole of society.
How is a conscience developed? How do we mentor and guide those in our care? Words are one way, but the best way is by example. Forming a good conscience is imperative for a successful life and relationships, but the conscience is not a haphazard thing, it does take work.
The function of our God-given conscience is to be that “little voice” in the back of our head guiding our decision making. The conscience helps us to do well and avoid evil and bad decisions according to our development. One must have a full knowledge of the principles of right and wrong and of moral truths. This knowledge is the result of purposeful teaching and guidance by prayer, study of the sacred scriptures, and examples. If our children do not see us, as their parents, in prayer, reading the bible, and worshiping our God at Mass, where will they see these activities?
So many parents think this is too hard, or they don’t have time to do these activities, but we must guide our children in these activities. At the school, the principal scheduled the Stations of the Cross for the end of the day on Fridays of Lent. Of the 40+ students and teachers, only a small handful consistently attended and prayed together. Again during May on each Wednesday, the rosary will be prayed at the end of school. Again, only a handful of students show up to pray together. It is our responsibility to instill the desire and respect of prayer and devotion. Our two daughters attend these prayerful times consistently and wish their peers would follow suit, but they know that it is not their priority. So, moral decisions are made and seen have come to fruition, our daughters are blessed, and they bless those around them by example.
Still the dichotomy exists, my heart breaks for her, but after some discussion neither of us wants her to change. The best thing we can do is continue to pray for her and know that she is planting seeds of witness and love for others around her to see. Who knows? She may be developing a friendship in someone right now that will last a lifetime from her classmates, she is most certainly developing a wonderful relationship with the One who counts the most, Jesus.