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Accepted in the Beloved
The Search for Acceptance
Thomas R. Fletcher
The image of the rugged individual has been idealized in America. Many attempt to live out that image. Individual desire and preference are often made the sum of all things. Our advertising industry feeds and inflames these selfish desires.
The payoff for many has been loneliness and broken relationships. "Not happy in your marriage? Cut loose and move on," society says. Many have bought into this hedonistic notion. With so many pursuing their own personal agenda for happiness, one would think the level of personal contentment would be growing. Such is not the case.
I wonder--does this fascination with individualism arise from an unhealthy reaction to rejection? We feel rejection, and the temptation is to think, "I'll show them, I don't need them." We have all met with rejection at one time or another, and it hurts. Why?
We need others. They need us. Individualism is a false mentality. Beneath the facade of rugged individualism which society bids us pursue and exude lies something more basic--something essential to our very being--the need to belong. At the core of our being, we want to belong. We want to be part something larger than ourselves.
This need explains the hold peer pressure has on our teenagers. So afraid of rejection, desiring to belong, many do things they normally would not. A recent television news program probed the dramatic increase in the use of marijuana among teenagers. The need for acceptance was named by some as a primary reason for their participating in this activity.
It is not only teenagers. Rock and Roll personalities tend to advocate the independent, rugged rebel lifestyle. Yet it doesn't work, even for them. Another news program aired an interview with lead singer Steve Tyler of the rock band Aerosmith. Tyler was discussing his former addiction to heroin. His reason for becoming involved with the drug? He wanted "to be part of that group of rockers." The need to belong drives some to find a false, sometimes deadly, acceptance. The need to belong drives even those who deny it.
God designed us to be part of something larger than ourselves. We were made to belong. We find fruitful fulfillment of that desire by being part of the Church. In the Church we have the opportunity to express ourselves and be part of something important, something larger than ourselves.
Those who attempt to live out the "rugged individual" lie find emptiness and a divine sense of dissatisfaction. Our need to fit in is basic to our personalities. None of us really wants to be alone. Those who know Christ as Savior have been accepted by Him. The Church, the fellowship of believers, is the expression of that acceptance. Our acceptance is based solely on God's grace. We are accepted in the Beloved.
As Christians, we must communicate that acceptance to those outside the Church. There is no need to attempt living the lie of individualism. There is no need to find a false acceptance through unhealthy attitudes and behavior. True acceptance is available. It is real and it is free.