Born and raised in the United Church, and having worked for the UC in BC for over 10 years now, I still don’t always feel like I belong here. I’ve worked with some fantastic people in this organization; thoughtful and caring, smart and funny. I’ve also encountered some real jerks. But that’s the truth of anyplace, isn’t it? It’s the truth of all of us. So why would we hold “church” to a higher standard. The people that work and serve in the church aren’t better than other people. We have a set of shared values drawn from our religious teachings that create a very high standard – but no one, none of us, can live up to those standards all the time. And, quite frankly, I see equally high standards being set by people who have no church or religious affiliation. So, no, I’m not talking about the work ethic or morals of my workplace. It’s this question of belonging that intrigues me.
The United Church of Canada has its own culture. To my eyes, it seems to be full of people – lots of whom are congregational ministers – who are conscientious, creative, committed and empathetic. ISFP’s and ENFP’s, if you’re familiar with Meyers Briggs personality types. I, on the other hand, am driven, intense, direct and demanding (INTJ, if you’re curious). Maybe this is why I feel like a foreigner in a place I have inhabited for over a decade.
Is it merely a Type A vs. Type B thing? Who knows.
What I do know is, like everyone, I feel most comfortable when I’m surrounded by people who are like me. Put me in the executive board room surrounded by the small team of Type-A design and development professionals that I trust and depend on, and I feel great. Send me into a United Church Presbytery meeting, or the annual retreat of BC Conference staffers and I feel like a fish out of water.
But here’s the thing…As long as I know I belong somewhere, then I’m okay with not belonging everywhere.
I actually think I’ve learned to thrive on the challenge of not fitting in. I know I genuinely enjoy that aspect of my job that brings me into relationship with people with whom I don’t have a lot in common. It’s not easy and it’s not always comfortable (!!) but working with folks who are different than I am – who are shyer, older or younger, more religious, straighter, richer or poorer, more relaxed, less communicative, browner, better educated, and more conservative than I– well, this just makes my work more interesting.
So do it. Find, then claim where it is you belong – and go beyond it.