The last time I really dressed up to impress a man was probably a decade ago when Peter and I were still in the do-you-notice-me-not-noticing-you-noticing-me phase.  The last time I dressed up to impress another woman was yesterday morning when I painstakingly blow-dried my hair before escorting a group of preschoolers on a field trip to the farm.

To. The. Farm.

Micah’s teacher is the opposite of me in every way. She is petite and effortlessly fashionable with truly great hair. So 7:30am found me determined to tame my own unruly mane. There may also have been eyeliner and a cute purse involved.

No one can make us quite as unsure about ourselves as another woman.

We can stand knee deep in witty conversation holding cup cakes in one hand and our cell phones with brilliant Twitter commentary in the other only to retreat to hotel rooms and whisper in quiet tears to our roommate how left out we felt.

We want to matter to the people we think matter.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

We want them to want to room with us.

We want them to want to read what we wrote.

We want them to want to share bits of themselves with us that they don’t share with anyone else.

We want them to invite us in.

Into the shared secrets and secret Facebook groups. Into the late night conversations and group blogging communities. Into the vacation, beach house getaways and photos of sunsets on the beach.

Into the conferences and ad campaigns, into the Skype calls and mom’s groups, into the planning committees and vacation plans.

We want in.

Left on the wrong side of the door I can regress into a third grade version of myself in mere minutes.

Lisa-Jo the too tall. Lisa-Jo the awkward. Lisa-Jo the sticky-out-eared-teenager.
Lisa-Jo the too loud. Lisa-Jo the too much mom-talk, too much South African, too much opinion.

There is a voice that whispers all the reasons we deserve to be out.

There is a voice that taunts.

There is a voice that remorselessly lists every time we’ve found ourselves on the outside and revels in each remembering.

There is a voice that will hypnotize if we let it. That will poison and paralyze our friendships by focusing on the moments when we felt excluded.

The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it.

 ~C.S Lewis, “The Inner Ring,” Memorial Lecture at King’s College, University of London, 1944.

Blink.

Blink and see it’s a mirage.

The illusion that there’s an inner circle we’ve been left out of; the lie that we’ve been left out on purpose.

We’re built for friendship, yes. We have community in our bones. And when we’re desperate and blinded by the taunting mirage of the inner circle we will drink the sand- angry, gritty, bitter and confused.

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.

 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

We can fight to find a way in or we can love on the women where we’re at.

We can obsess over who didn’t talk to us or we can focus on the woman we’re talking to.

We can keep looking for a seat at a more popular table or we can pass the bread basket and an introduction to the women sitting right where we already are.

And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside:

that you are indeed snug and safe at the center of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring.

But the difference is that its secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like.

This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.

~C.S Lewis, “The Inner Ring,” Memorial Lecture at King’s College, University of London, 1944.

Everyone is on the outside of something. But that is only half the story.

We are all on the inside of something often without even realizing it.

Do you see?

Blink.

Do you see them? Your people.

Look around.

Wipe the mirage out of your eyes.

Now, who do you see?

::

By Lisa-Jo, community manager of (in)courage and cheerleader for kind words

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  1. 1
    Lisa H says:

    Thank you Lisa-Jo!
    This comes at a great time for me. I feel as if I have been shunned by my peers in my job. I’m not standing up with them against the changes that are being proposed and executed in our office. I am all for the change!They do not like it and they do not like that I am all for it. Therefore, the outcome of this is that I have been forced out of the circle through silent treatment and sometimes rudeness.

    If I look around as you suggest what do I see? I see that I am in line with our new management, our physicians, etc. The people who really do matter in this grand scheme of things since they are the ones who are orchestrating the changes! By doing so, I have a voice, and I have a respected opinion. Not that the others do not. They do. They just are choosing to use their voices in other ways, complaining, arguing, bickering etc., and not looking at how all these changes just might bring about some good!

    I’m trying to make my work place better by helping work through the changes because change really needs to happen. Sometimes its good not being in the circle but I won’t lie; sometimes that stings a little……..

    • 2

      Hi Lisa,

      Yes, it can be hard to be forced out of a place where we were used to being part of the community. But I think you are wise and brave to focus on the heart of who is being served through your job and work hard to bend to do that, no matter who it frustrates along the way.

      Thank you for sharing – praying for you this morning.

    • 3

      LisaH, I was in such a similar place a year ago to where you are. I had been hired the year before to help shore up the office manager’s plans for changes and improvements and helping to create a more team focused environment.

      Much to my surprise, they didn’t want change. Even teeny tiny changes were met with reprimands (I updated the blurry, out of date 6 year old fax cover sheet).

      Like you, I took the high road and refrained from the gossip and the backbiting. It does sting not to belong, even though you don’t want to be part of that bad behavior. After much prayer and consulting with my hubby, I eventually left and have been creating work that is meaningful to me and others. Whew-what a breath of fresh air it has been!

      I pray for you, for strength, to be sharpened by these events, and to be a light to others.

  2. 4

    Lisa-Jo,

    Thanks for sharing this article. I love that you referenced Jesus’ words to the disciples about serving one another. When we have a servants heart we always have a place. When our focus is on serving God and loving people, then we are more prone to inviting others in instead of trying to fit In. Bless you! Have a wonderful day.

    • 5

      Hi Erin,

      “When we have a servant’s heart we always have a place.” yes yes yes – such wise truth here. The only “in” where we can ever feel truly filled up is in Christ, yes.

  3. 6

    I really enjoyed and appreciate your insight on this topic. In the past I have found myself inside the the ‘Inner Ring’ only to discover that it wasn’t what all it was cracked up to be.

    • 7

      Hi Valerie,

      Yes that’s part of what CS Lewis discusses to – how when we only what to be “in” for the sake of being “in” then we will always be disappointed when we arrive there. But when we stumble into the heart of a true friendship then we can feel nothing but full and safe and home.

      • 8

        Truer words have not been spoken! The grass is always greener on the other side, so they say. But it should not be this way for a believer! Easy to say, not so easy to live.

    • 9

      I think this is the Hedonistic paradox. It has come up twice this week in my daily meditations on Christ.

      Hugs!
      Cat

  4. 10
    janice says:

    Awesome! I have been a part of the ‘Inner Ring’ and soon realized that I didn’t really want to be there. Leaving that ‘Ring’ was a blessing!

    • 11

      Yes, the wrong rings, the circles that exist to exclude, they are all part of the illusion, the sand that this will quench our thirst for community. When only service, only putting others first can ever give us the kind of satisfaction we’re so desperate for.

      Thank you Janice.

  5. 12

    Well put!
    I am trying to grow my blog ministry right now. I figure that people read blogs, so I can give them the opportunity to read mine.=) But it is a fight to not conform to the pattern of everyone else’s blog. To be willing to be me. To write my heart. To minister to my core group who have been with me all along. To glorify God where He has me.
    This is very much on my heart. I blogged about it last Friday. (pressed into a mold)
    The other thing is, some blogs have lots of members, and get lot of hits, others have fewer. But it doesn’t mean that the ones with fewer hits are inferior quality blogs.
    Anyway, your post rang true.
    A wise man told my husband that you shouldn’t try to be accepted by others. You should accept others though. That is the secret to having friends. “A man who has friends must show himself friendly.”

    • 13

      Hey there Barefoot Hippie Girl,

      Yes, yes and yes. I so agree. “To be willing to be me. To write my heart. To minister to my core group who have been with me all along. ” This is the secret to success. Only giving what we have – what Jesus has blessed us with. And leaving what happens to it up to Him. If you’re called to write – write your heart out. But write for those who come hungry to your table. Don’t fret about those who haven’t shown up. That’s a lesson I’ve been learning myself.

      Blessings on your blog and your ministry.

  6. 14

    I. love. this. post. THANK YOU for writing about this, and for being so bold to be so vulnerable. I just did a series on my own blog about body image and much of it focused on the lies we keep telling ourselves over and over regarding our unworthiness. I guess the lies are everywhere – in all genres of our interpersonal and intrapersonal interactions.

    I loved your line… “We can keep looking for a seat at the more popular table or we can pass the bread basket and an introduction to the women sitting right where we are.” So true. SO TRUE.

    May we love others so well that we don’t even think of self at all. Some day.

    • 15

      Hi Christan,

      Yes, I’ve been guilty of trying to table hop and in the moments when I’ve focused on passing and breaking the bread where I am is the only time I’ve been at peace and able to give and receive the love and attention I was looking for in the first place. Here’s to that some day my friend.

  7. 16

    Lisa Jo, this is brilliant! At 43, I’m so done with hearing about cliques. Why do we, as adult women, resort to middle school behavior? Why do we worry more about fitting in than about the women around us?

    Thanks for the challenge!!
    Heidi

    • 17

      Dear Heidi,

      “Why do we worry more about fitting in than about the women around us?” oh such wisdom. Yes, exactly, that’s the heart of what I was trying to say. We will feel filled up the more we pour out into others. Wonderful.

  8. 18

    When you started writing this I immediately thought of Lewis’ Inner Circle and how eye opening that was for me to read the first time. Such a good reminder. I feel like at the stage of life I’m in (young kids and one still little baby) I almost never see women anyway, but that feeling can still be there. Why didn’t she call me? I know she called so-and-so. Am I being left behind?

    Great post.

  9. 20

    What a great post; I’m glad you shared. That feeling of being left out brings us all back to “those” moments, doesn’t it? When we remember being excluded because someone decided we weren’t enough. I am so appreciative of the reminder that we all have people, we all have friendships and are part of our own “inner ring,” people who know us and share life with us. I needed that reminder this morning. Thank you.

    • 21

      Hi Lindsay,

      I need that reminder too – on a daily basis. No one is immune to feeling left out, are we? And only Jesus can make us feel utterly, completely and wholly included. When we forget ourselves and see only Him it’s a relief and a place of being on the only “inside” that matters.

      Thank you for sharing.

  10. 22

    So, sooo good! Thank you for this!

  11. 24
    Glenda says:

    I have discovered incourage! Your post is written so well and has really spoken to me … all the way out here in New Zealand. Thanks – I am drawn to change!

  12. 26

    Oh Lisa Jo!! I saw you and the other inRL women on video during the conference and wished I was there; I wished I was awesome/talented/loved enough to be in that group – and then looked around and was with four beautiful women and had to scold my heart for wishing that. It comes too easily; that wishing to be ‘in’ and is neglected too easily; the realization that you are ‘in’ something, if only you could un-focus your eyes on where you are not but where you are. Powerful post!!

    • 27

      Hi Jen,

      Believe it or not, I know exactly what you mean. Because none of us are immune to having our moments of feeling deeply left out. No matter how it might look on video :) This is such wisdom you share, “if only you could un-focus your eyes on where you are not but where you are.” Amen and amen. That’s the challenge, isn’t it. And on days like that I turn up John Mark Mcmillan’s – How He Loves Us – and just let the words “He is jealous for me” sink in real deep.

      If Christ is jealous for ME what else is there to fret about? Like you, I have days when I believe it and others where I wrestle. But I cling to His promises and His love and His hand.

      Thank you for sharing. You are awesome/talented and loved right where you are. The best group that there is. Truly.

      Warmest of wishes
      Lisa-Jo

  13. 28

    Beautiful!!!! Thank you for this!

  14. 30
    Jennifer says:

    Wow. this hits me VERY close to my heart.

    Being a military wife, and often new to schools, mommy groups, etc.. is something I am familiar with. But, recently my daughter started a new school (a christian preschool) and I have never felt so alone during the gatherings that involve the other mommys/parent participation (like the children’s parties, etc..) They already have their friendships formed, their groups, and a few of them have come up to me to say hello, yes. But, after casual /social pleasantries are said, they go to their groups and I am left to my own devices. Usually at that point I just get on my cell and act as if I have lots to do. Lots of checking facebook and email. lol How sad is that??

    As a whole, it has been SO hard for me. To the point where I came to start trying to avoid any social situations at her school. I know that is bad, and not the mom I want to be for my daughter. Thankfully, she just graduated and will start public school Kinder in the fall. My one goal is not to become THAT mom again. The one who feels so inadequate in the social scene amongst the other moms. I am not really naturally outgoing, but I am really going to push myself. :)

    • 31

      Hey Jennifer,

      I know how that feels. What’s helped me is to try to zone in on one of those moms at every event and start to politely stalk her and follow up with her every time we’re together. Someone who seems to have a lot in common with me – so that I can focus my energy on one new friendship at least.

      But it can be hard and lonely and I sure hope you find community next year.

      The trying is the hard part but when one friendship emerges from all the awkward, it’s such a gift, isn’t it?

      Warmest of wishes
      Lisa-Jo

  15. 32

    Love this post, Lisa Jo. You’re a wonderful encouragement, and I love how you mix the words of Scripture in with your posts. I love how your words are influencing the ideas of the culture.

  16. 34

    Oh my gosh, so timely. Thank you. I needed this reminder desperately. I just didn’t know it until I read it.

  17. 36

    great post…I have come to believe…no matter how old we get…there is a junior high girl lurking in us longing to belong. Thanks for the great encouragement here…it is a matter of focus…to focus on what is rather than what is not. I am not sure we ever outgrow some of the struggle…but isn’t it in the struggle that we grow and find greater freedom. And by God’s grace, I have found this to be a motivation to be more present with the woman I am with…and more inclusive with those around me. God redeems all~ blessings to you~

    • 37

      Yes, a matter of focus. Exactly.

      “it is a matter of focus…to focus on what is rather than what is not.” That is the art and the discipline and the reward all wrapped up into one, isn’t it? And that junior high girl can be hard to over come and I still struggle with her on a daily basis. But like you, I’m pushing past her to the freedom that comes from being “in” Christ.

      Thank you for your words.

      • 38

        Lisa-Jo, I so relate to your post. Thanks for being candid, on point and urging us move forward and be in, all in my real life today. Thanks for the charge to serve others without delay. This is a wake-up call. The replies are equally open, precious and vulnerable. We truly must reach out serving to love and loving to serve. This is grace and mercy and giving and thanksgiving. This is all in. Dressed for battle. I refuse to be suspended in third grade, middle school, or any past day that haunts, degrades or steals from my present and my future.

  18. 39

    Contentment (with who you are and where you are) is the trait most envied that leads to the trait of confidence to which people are drawn.

  19. 42

    This post is such a timely word for me. Like many authors and bloggers, I’m working to build a platform. Build a Platform. Those are three words that I must acknowledge, but they’re also words that I’m wary of at points.

    Occasionally I feel like I’m trying to get noticed at the popular table in the cafeteria. I didn’t play that game during high school, so why is it tugging on me now?

    Your words remind me to focus on the inside of where I am right now — where God has planted me for this time, no matter the size or scope.

    Beautiful reminder. Thank you so much, Lisa-Jo.

    • 43

      Thanks Robin.

      And I agree – building a platform isn’t a bad thing. It’s only when we’re not content with the people who stand on our platform now. Only when we want someone else’s platform. Only when we’re mad that what we’re building isn’t what she has – you know? I write this for myself – I have that argument with myself and I have to remind myself to feed the women who come to my table, not to fret about the ones who haven’t shown up yet.

      Thank you for sharing.

  20. 45

    I am watching a group of high school girls deal with this very thing at church. One week the group is 3-5 girls allowed “in” and the next it’s 5-7 in and then back again.
    The sad part is when talking this through with one of the girls she said she couldn’t wait to grow up so his wouldn’t happen anymore…
    Little did she know it just gets worse. I kept that bit of bad news to myself and settled for a big hug and prayer.

    Great post Lisa Jo.
    Thank u for sharing…

    • 46

      Yes, if only we can help our daughters find freedom in being in Christ then perhaps there will be hope for them during the mini van driving years :) I pray this over my Zoe and know that unless I model it, it won’t come naturally.

      Praying for your girls today too.

  21. 47

    Yes. I love the comparison to the quote from Lord of the Rings. It’s so true that none of us are immune to this. And you’re right (gulp), I do see it in the blogging community. To be honest though, I think most women are unaware (as you suggested) that they are even clique-ish. I just work hard within myself to be inclusive in every way and beg for grace. We’re all in this together. I’ve really realized that in the past few years as I grow and learn more about others.

    As a blogger and writer, the way I keep perspective is to remember who I write for. I love (LOVE) Ann Voskamp’s complete humbleness about her readership. I’ve even considered getting rid of “followers’ and such things. When I receive ONE email from a Mom who can share in my pain or growth, I’m ecstatic. I write for Him and blogging is just an extension of that. Perspective is such a powerful force…

    Much love – Cass @ The Unplugged Family

  22. 48

    Lisa-Jo, thank you for this. I wish I could say I don’t feel this way, that someone how I’ve conquered this desire to be a part of “the” group – whoever “the” group is. But alas, I still possess the X-Chromosome so this is as ever constant for me as it is for any woman.

    Blogging can sometimes make this feel worse. It tends to maginfy the feeling that I will ever fit in, never find my place. But the thing that is ironic is that I know people probably look at me and feel like I am in “the” group. I’ve gotten to do amazing things that many people would love to do and yet, here I am, still feeling like I don’t fit in. Because my barometer for fitting in is very skewed and greatly dictated by my very human heart.

    I think, since coming home from Tanzania, I’ve felt like I’m floundering in this writing world. How now do I write? What do I say? I don’t know anymore and suddenly I feel like the one thing I had a handle on is stripped bare and what do I do? Mix that with these fears of not fitting in and you have nothing left but a girl paralyzed by doubt. Will my words ever have meaning again and if I don’t keep churning out words that move people, or make them laugh, then will they leave me?

    It has left me in a very prayerful and vulnerable place. Lord, who am I trying to please?

    Thanks for this post. It is good to know I’m not the only one. :)

    • 49

      “Because my barometer for fitting in is very skewed and greatly dictated by my very human heart.” ~ Oh, me too, sister. {Sigh} I’m thankful we have His heart to hold onto, the only Perfectly Accurate Barometer.

  23. 50

    Ok, so maybe it’s not from Lord of the Rings? Hm. Should be. ha.

  24. 52

    Thank you for sharing your heart. I have often felt the same things. Sometimes I think I’m just being jealous or something but it’s good to know that I’m not in this alone. I currently am experiencing a neglect from one of my closest friends. I don’t know if it’s just a season or if I’ve done something to turn my friend away from me. Let’s all just pray for each other on here that we can have unity in our relationships. God bless you all.

  25. 53

    Oh, Lisa-Jo you SO GET IT and write about it so beautifully. There was an incident at the Relevant Conference last fall that really threw me for a loop. I had to pray hard and long to get over it…especially since I knew NO ONE at the conference. Some of the women were so welcoming and inclusive…others, not so much.

    Thanks for being so honest and transparent.

    Mary
    http://memyselfandmercy.blogspot.com/

  26. 54

    As I read along, I found myself singing John Mellencamp’s line “All the girls walk by dressed up for each other.” This subject is always timely. You may have even seen some ramblings about this in my survey after (in)RL. ;) I love the way you treated it here, the way you first related to the struggle and then steered us all in the right direction. When I get to feeling like I’m on the outside, Elijah’s experience often comes to mind how he said, “I alone am left” and then how God eventually turned his attention toward the seven thousand faithful left in Israel. SEVEN THOUSAND. That is more than an inner circle, that’s a following. I had never heard/read C.S. Lewis’ speech on the Inner Ring, but how insightful (as I’ve come to expect from him), that what we sometimes assume to be a clique could just be an accidental gathering of people who enjoy the same things…friends. That really takes the edge off. And through this piece today, God is turning our heads to those around us, the faithful already here. P.S. If you were in my inner circle, you’d be talking MORE about South Africa. :) The place is precious to me…my first ever international trip…and the home of one of my dearest friends.

    • 55

      Hi there Darcy,

      Oh I would SO be talking your ear off about South Africa! :) It’s been almost exactly a year now since we were last home and it stings. Thank you for your honesty here and in response to (in)RL. The illusion that there is a super secret “in” crowd is a powerful one and I’ve drunk the sand myself on more than one occasion. Lewis’ piece is fantastic and you can actually download the entire speech here – it’s only a few pages. It’s worth reading since he talks about how deeply unsatisfying it can be to arrive at a center we’ve been striving for only to discover it is a hollow experience since it was based on nothing more than wanting to be “in.” But that true friendship is its own reward and the surprising arrival at an inner ring we never set out to find in the first place.

      Ok rambling aside, here’s the link – he says it better than me anyway
      http://johnrepici.com/Misc/TheInnerRing.pdf

  27. 58
    Jennifer says:

    Ooh, thanks for the reminder. Those feelings can hold such power if we let them. But I like the part of the verse that simply says, “Not so with you.” It’s so important to be fully in the present moment and loving those in front of us. Not to mention that it builds the character in us that prepares us for reaching the heights we desire (but the heights of fulfilled potential and deep community rather than the height of popularity).

  28. 59

    Wow this was powerfully true and so welcome. Thank you for writing out loud what we are all secretly feeling inside. (pinning and tweeting it now!)

  29. 60

    I have fought feelings of rejection since toddlerhood. It was only a few years ago that my eyes were opened to the enemy’s plot. One of my spiritual giftings is encouragement. Guess what’s the most effective way to keep me from encouraging someone? Yup – feeling rejected by them.

    My husband has been hugely instrumental in helping me to separate facts from feelings in my friendships, and Beth Moore’s “Breaking Free” study helped show me the way out of the box of rejection as well.

    When I focus on me and how left out I feel, I feed the rejection. When I focus on “the woman I’m talking to”, I feed encouragement.

    It’s really about contentment, isn’t it? Accepting God’s wisdom in making me the way I am, and accepting those around me for who they are – “innies” or not. They are *my* innies if they are around me!

    Thanks for writing about this difficult topic.

  30. 61

    Oh, Lisa-Jo! Thank you for this. I have been personally hurt and have watched my dear sisters be hurt by church cliques and it breaks my heart. It is so contrary to what Jesus teaches. I was reading in Mark 9 this morning and verse 35 jumped out at me- “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Ah, so easy to say- yes that’s so true!- and so tough to actually live it out. What would our circles look like if we were all truly willing to humble ourselves and seek to be the servant of all?
    Thank you for this beautiful post! I appreciate your heart and your writing so very much. Praying that God will continue to use your words for His glory!

  31. 62

    What an incredible post to women! Thank you for this reminder!

  32. 63

    That piece may be my favourite of all of Lewis’s writings. What a man!

  33. 64

    Wow – how appropriately timed and applicable this post was for me! So many of the women at our church are struggling with this very thing (I have a feeling many women at MANY churches are). I hope it is okay but I put a link to this article on my personal blog – I hope it will reach even more people this way! Thanks for being so candid and transparent – it was a great encouragement to me! Be blessed 1

  34. 65

    You get the woman mind-set. You get us, because you know how to share the us in you. Love you!

  35. 66
    Alexandra Kuykendall says:

    Love. Love. Love. Can’t get enough of this! Any way you sneak all of this into your workshop at the MOPS Convention? Just kidding (kind of). Such a great message of loving the women who are around you instead of focusing on those you watch from a distance (I can certainly use more of that in my life). Thank you for a great message today.

    • 67

      Lisa-Jo, you totally should include this in your MOPS talk!

    • 68

      Thanks Alex – and yes, seems like a topic worth covering with the MOPS community, doesn’t it? We all need the reminder and the encouragement.

    • 69
      Rebecca says:

      Alexandra, I’m the MOPS Regional Coordinator in Country Western Australia, and I have to second what you say-this topic is so very, very close to the hearts of women and I think the message is applicable across cultures. Even though we in Australia don’t go to MOPS Conference in the US, it would be such a perfect, perfect topic for a workshop at your MOPS conference.

  36. 70

    Great post!

  37. 71
    Alexandra Kuykendall says:

    Oh, and my husband always asks me why I get so dressed up for other women. You hit it.

  38. 72

    This is so right on I can barely speak! I’ve been in that mindset so often in the past. Listened to the poisonous words being seeped into my soul. I love it. Blink the mirage away. Excellent post!

  39. 74

    What wonderful words! Thank you so much or sharing them!! I can completely relate to so much in what you wrote. The pain of that left out feeling. It is a constant struggle to remind myself of the mirage, as you put it, and I so appreciated the reminder and the encouragement to see it for what it is.

  40. 75

    um. amen? i was thinking today about how we always want to be “er”. wittier, prettier, cuter, nicer…. psalm 139. so important to acutally liking ourselves because of the one who made us.

  41. 76

    Such a timely read! I don’t know why we sometimes get caught up with thinking that the circle to which we don’t belong is the “better” one. I know there are groups that don’t want to be inclusive, but I don’t need to spend my time focusing on those. Instead, I’m making more of a deliberate effort to cultivate the friendships that are edifying and encouraging. Thank you for putting this out there & making me aware of the fact that I ought to be more inclusive too.

  42. 77

    Lisa-jo this is such a timely post. I have been dealing with feelings of inadequacies lately. I have gained some weight and I definitely notice the different attitudes of people towards me.
    I even had some guy while on a flight to TX be really rude to me, then when he left he said “why don’t you try losing some weight.” So it has been very hard.
    I also recently joined Blog Frog and heard that everyone there is very accepting and not as cliquey as some other areas. So far I am finding it true.
    I have been drawn to reading CS Lewis lately but haven’t picked up one of his books. I think I will now that you quoted him twice ;-)
    Thanks for a very timely and needed post.
    Hugs!
    Cat

  43. 78

    Lisa-Jo,
    Thank you for sharing such wonderful and inspiring thoughts. It is difficult to avoid the lie of trying to obtain our identity and place through our position among others at work, church, neighborhood or school groups, etc. It is so easy to get caught up in how many “Likes” our comments receive, how many people read or comment on our blog posts, or how many lunches and home parties to which we receive invitations.
    Our identity and significance comes from God and cannot be taken away or diminished by other people. Thank you again for the great reminder.

  44. 79

    You are so spot on with this post and it’s so nice to hear that I am not the only one that feels this way. It’s not just groups though, it’s communities. We moved into the small town (pop less than 1000) we live in back in 2009 and it feels like we will always be outsiders. The women I see every week at church, who are the parents of my daughter’s friends, who I work side by side with in the church kitchen, still will not go out of their way AT ALL to speak to me – unless I go up to them first. Not even wave or anything. It’s so hard because other than my wonderful husband, who truly is my BFF, I don’t have any friends in my community. A woman-friend to have coffee with. It seems like they all have thier quota of friends and dont’ want any more. :(

  45. 80
    Tamlyn says:

    LOVED this. So true. So applicable to just about all of us. This really spoke to me. Thank you!

  46. 81

    Ahh, friend. Every woman alive could find healing in your words here!

    The enemy loves him some lonely women, and he’ll settle for us *feeling* alone and left out even if nothing could be further from the truth. For me, all he has to do is suggest I am excluded, and I take off running. Then, I become vulnerable and lose my effectiveness. Thank you for pointing us to the One who says we are in, in, in. To the One who plants people and blessings right in front of me. To how I can serve Him by serving them. Because when I do this, my focus shifts on what I’m not getting {or what I think I’m not getting} to what I can give.

    I am looking closely now!

  47. 83

    Very good word. I think it is often a both/and for me. I invest in the women around me and yet still ache for the ones who don’t seem to care to know me any more than they do. And even where I’m on the “inside”, I often feel “outside”…that what I bring to the table is not really wanted. That the effort I put into friendships is not reciprocated. I have seen often that when I have backed off from being tired of trying to connect, the friendship ends. I know I am not the only one who feels this. But, how do we find and cultivate truly life-giving friendships among women? Shouldn’t we need more than one hand to count those relationships?

  48. 84

    Hi Lisa-Jo,
    Thank you for this post. You nailed it! I’m sure alot of women feel this way. Even the ones we feel are on the “inside” feel like they are still on the “outside” of that elusive inner ring. Your insight is helpful. Thanks again.

  49. 85
    Barbara M. says:

    I’m going to quickly post and then I’m going to read when I get back from the elementary school, where I know I don’t fit in, the other parents are all gathered around my ex-husband who was abusive to me and my sons, and my 2nd grade daughter and her friends all come up and hug me and make me feel more wanted and special than anyone else on the earth.
    I’ve never fit in. Never. My friends have always been the outcasts, the oddballs, the loners, the stoners, the geeks. But that’s a good thing in a way, I’m really, truly their friend for life. Except I got lost on a bad road for years, trying to be accepted and fell into horrible sin and just in recent years pulled myself up by God’s bootstraps and set myself on the correct path to Him and His will for my life. I’ve always been a loving person, but loved the wrong people too fast, too much and it’s broken me and my spirit.
    Now, I am way more careful who I am friends with, but I still want to love others, I do love them, but they just don’t really know about it. I’d be grateful if anyone here who doesn’t have a friend would truly, honestly be my friend. Even online. Maybe it’s safer, but I have a group of friends whom I have only met a few of them in person, but we met in a Christian forum. It was safe to open up. It’s been 8 years now that I know this bunch of people and I love them all, they’re my sisters and brothers.
    But I don’t have anyone here in person I can call close like that.
    I would love to.

  50. 86
    Shashi D says:

    Wow! Powerful post, Lisa-Jo. I have suffered and inflicted such pain as exclusion by clique. The inflicted part really bothers me as I work exceptionally hard at inclusion. Your words touched me today and were a good reminder to me. Thank you.

  51. 87

    I have an ouchie comment. Not about you, but from my experience. I used to be staff in a church and now I wonder how much of our efforts was in creating an inner circle. I hate that I may have been part of that. Off to read the Lewis piece now. I loved your post. Thank you for writing it.

    Dixie

  52. 88

    This post spoke straight to my heart. This insecurity in my friendships has been a huge struggle for me for the past year. ready to start being a more proactive friend to others. P.S. Went on my first ever mission trip 6 months ago and it was to Cape Town! Yay for SA! :)

  53. 89

    I can relate to this. I wrote a very raw (rather ugly) blog post about this yesterday called “Broody Hen”. I was almost afraid to push “publish”, but I did. Thank you for being brave enough to write your own “Broody Hen”. It’s something we all suffer from time to time. But praise God that we can run to Him and cry, “Abba Father… “

  54. 90

    Sometimes we, as Christian women, ARE aware of wanting to fit in – as though it were junior high or high school all over again. There ARE those who are part of the “inner circle,” who really like feeling that way, and don’t want that to change by including outsiders. Sometimes, tthat clique-ishness in Christian circles makes it very difficult to even break in or to be acknowledged. It seems as though outsiders are invisible until they have been around for a while, until they have passed some test in order to be “deemed” worthy of fitting in. It is certainly more comfortable to hang out with those we know; however, many times there are people right in our midst that are desperate need of having kindness shown. We never know the shoes those around us may be walking in. We are the hands and feet of God on this earth – not only to those we know, but those who may be strangers to us. Sometimes we miss the opportunity to entertain an angel because we are unaware of someone right in front of our noses. Sometimes we may miss the opportunity to bless or encourage someone who is struggling.

    Good post…and good comments.

  55. 91

    Reading this not only brought tears to my eyes, but now I can’t stop crying. I’ve always wanted to fit in, not with the inner circle, but just to feel accepted and loved by the women who call themselves my friends. But they haven’t been there in the past when I needed them. I’m a friend to them, but I feel used by them. So I’ve been alone with God and praying for a true friend that’s a Christian women. I know He will answer my prayer in His time. Help me to be patient, Lord. Take away my pain and tears. Let me be the kind of friend I want to have to all. Thank you for answering my prayer.

    • 92

      Oh Bindy – on my crying days I listen to these words over and over again until they soak into my DNA:

      And He is jealous from me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
      Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
      When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions
      Eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are
      And how great your affections are for me.

      He *is* jealous for you, your time, your affection, your heart, Bindy. He is.

    • 93
      Colleen says:

      Bindy I was quite popular in High school and ever since I became a mother and wife I’ve been praying the same prayer!! Where have all of my “friends” gone? Even within the church!! :s I never found someone who accepted me for me. I was too old for the “young” crowed and too young for the “older” crowed LOL So I wait patiently like you for that one true friend IF she ever comes. But I will focus on my kids and husband for now and maybe just maybe GOD will use me for his glory in someone else’s life who is feeling the same way. One thing I am sure of is I won’t pretend that I am someone who I am NOT to fit in…. I’m way too lazy for that! LOL

  56. 94

    Love this post!

    I really wanted to be in the popular crowd when I was in the 6th grade. Eventually I made it in. It didn’t last long though – I didn’t have the resources to keep me there. Even more painful, a note that I found all about how I didn’t belong.

    Sometimes I catch myself reverting back to that place, as an adult, and in the church. I especially still struggle with wanting to hang with the popular people, and wanting to be noticed.

    But, I’m thankful that God always invites me into his inner circle. And shares more of his resources than I even know. My prayer is that I truly love others. Not love that’s formed out of what they might do for me, not for their positions or out of my needs… but out of courage and faith that is built in heavenly places.

  57. 95

    This is such a great article. It’s a strange place to be, socially connected with everyone and then yet feeling totally alone and left out. I like that you encourage us to look around for those like us instead of always trying to sit at the popular table.

  58. 96

    Thanks for the encouragement! :)

  59. 97
    Karen Looby says:

    How often have I felt this way and how often have I thought I was the only one who felt this way! Thank you for addressing this heart issue and letting others know how common this subtle deception is. Thank you for offering encouragement for seeking and living the truth instead.

  60. 98

    There is a wonderful song by Casting Crowns, called ‘The Voice of Truth’.

    That song ministered to my heart during recent times of being overwhelmed with thoughts in my head. It certainly is the devil’s playground, and our own memories can betray us and be used against us. This song and it’s message of how the voice of truth overcomes the voice of fear and exclusion brings clarity and healing. <3

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwsvqVmFV6Y

  61. 99

    This was great…and so true. And it never ends…it just changes (trust me, I’m a grandma).
    One thing I read that helps me is this: Some people enter the room thinking, “Here I am!” Others enter a room and think, “There YOU are!” It makes all the difference in the world.
    Lord, may it ever be so in my life…amen!

  62. 100

    I needed to read this today — so glad I clicked over. I signed up to attend a mom’s retreat at our new church. I know absolutely no one at this new church and I feel like a nervous kindergartner on her first day of school. Normally, I wouldn’t go. Totally out of my comfort zone. It’s silly, but I’m terrified. Who will share their bunk bed with me? Will it be like the nightmare of dodgeball team choosing in jr. high, when I was all elbows and bookishness? Will I be totally left out with a group of women who probably go back for years?

    And by the way, the only reason I have the courage to sign up and go anyway is because of {in}courage’s graciousness. Last year, you awarded me the newbie writer’s craft sponsorship to Relevant and I went, though I knew not a soul. I realized then that even if it makes me want to vomit, there is great treasure to be found in stepping out and putting yourself out there. My heart was healed in many ways that weekend and my world was broadened by relationships with amazing women. I will continue to tell all who will listen that {in}courage rocks. :)

    • 101

      So glad to hear that Cara. Stepping out is always awkward but if even only one new friend, one new connection, one new person on speed dial emerges it’s so worth it, isn’t it. And I’m so glad we chose you as our newbie last year :)

  63. 102

    Thank you for writing this. It’s a beautiful piece that spoke to my heart.

  64. 103

    Already commented on this post via twitter/facebook, but I wanted to leave a comment here, as well.

    WOW. Again, this is such a great post and God is using it in so many ways.

    This paragraph convicted me:

    “The last time I really dressed up to impress a man was probably a decade ago when Peter and I were still in the do-you-notice-me-not-noticing-you-noticing-me phase. The last time I dressed up to impress another woman was yesterday morning when I painstakingly blow-dried my hair before escorting a group of preschoolers on a field trip to the farm.”

    How silly of us! We compare and we try to “enhance” who we are for the approval of women (women! not even men!), when God tells us to do all things unto HIM:

    Colossians 3:22-24 “Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

    “We can fight to find a way in or we can love on the women where we’re at.”

    May we love and serve the women where we’re at in the name of Jesus Christ! Not by our own power, but by His.

  65. 105

    What a good reminder! I’ve been thinking about this lately. I’m two years past moving to another state. I’ve made some great friends but I don’t yet have the well-rounded community I’m used to. I’m not sure if it’s something about the South but people often say “let’s get together” with no intention of following through, even if they genuinely like me. It’s perplexing. I feel like I’m in the position of trying to “break into” their tight knit circles of friends. And yet, in spite of those folks, I still have a good group of friends that likes hanging out and has integrated me into their lives. So I’m trying to focus on what I do have. I know if a deeper and wider community is in my future, it will happen naturally and at the right time.

  66. 107

    Thanks, Lisa Jo. This was so true and so important for us women to hear. This year God has been teaching me about how many things in my life are ultimately rooted in not finding my identity in Christ – trying to be in the Inner Ring is one of those. It’s an effort to find my identity in being liked and accepted by others rather than in being loved and forgiven by Christ. Your article was a well-articulated reminder to keep my focus in the right place, and on the right people.

  67. 108

    This so speaks to me! I have felt left out my entire life yet I have so many friends to do things with, I don’t have the time to do them all! It still surprises me at times when people are actually listening to what I say. Belonging is very much a state of mind. :) Thanks for putting it so eloquently!

  68. 109

    Thank you for this open explanation for all to see. I am an abuse survivor and that leaves me feeling on the outside in most situations. I am also a preacher kid and that leaves confused and angry at other people in “church” for not including me. We are all so afraid and need community so desperately! We (I) must learn to look beyond the superficial and be forgiving of other’s humanness.
    Thank you!

  69. 110

    Brilliant. Heartfelt. And oh so, true. My identity? In Christ alone. And sometimes, in this online world, it’s hard to keep that as my lens for seeing the world. It’s then that the comparison comes in, the insecurities, the feeling as if one never measures up. I love your words and your reminders here today.
    Thank you for being bold and speaking to the heart of women. I am grateful.
    Rachel

  70. 111

    I know your words will ring true with probably every woman who reads them. They were so eloquently put – so wise. Although at times I do think it’s easier for the women who have their inner circle to state these things, at times.

    I’ve been on inner circles and outer circles. And I have just learned that I can’t be anything other than who I am. If I am rejected, I am rejected. Yes, it hurts. But I need to be true to who I am. The hard part in that is when you find yourself on the outside seeking someone who has something in common with you – someone to encourage you instead of YOU doing all the encouraging! But in those times – that’s when you can lean closest in on the Lord. For He’s the only one who never dissapoints.

  71. 112

    I laughed out loud in the first few paragraphs. Can you see my face turning red with empathy? I’ve been praying about this whole topic, mulling it over and wrestling a bit with God. I wish I could sit across from you with a cup of joe and talk about it. You nailed it, your really did.

  72. 114

    As I ‘m reading this, the “grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” phrase is running through my head. Awesomely encouraging, Lisa-Jo, thanks! I’m well aware I am on the outside of many things. It’s nice to be reminded I’m on the inside of things as well!

  73. 115

    Wow this is outstanding…I have found the third grade me popping up over the past couple of days reminded of perhaps real perhaps imagined “outsiderness.” You have no idea how timely this is. I’ve been preaching to myself. Believe the best, believe the best, believe the best (about the friend who an interaction with brought it all up), but boy am I blessed with women right where I am.

    We’re all aiming for the same goal. I had trouble dealing with a roommate in college and I Lord gave me a little “vision.” (a thing not heard of with me)…I had my head bowed on my knees praying…afterwards I wasn’t sure if I’d fallen asleep or not, but in my “dream” I couldn’t see Him but I had “a knowing” that Jesus’ feet had just landed on earth. I was standing beside this roommate and we looked at each other and the look on her face and the feeling in my heart was one of unadulterated PURE joy. Then we both took off running toward Him…and the amazing thing was:

    It was NOT A RACE. No competition. ONLY joy.

    Thank you for reminding me of this today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  74. 116

    Beautiful post. So much of what impacts our lives has to do with our perspective – looking at what we don’t have or what we do. I think that instead of searching for the elusive “circle” to join, we ought to look for those who seem to have no circle; who themselves are longing to be “in” and invite them in.

    There are times in life when you just have to walk away from something, too, if you’re continually feeling hurt by the seeming exclusion. One that comes to mind for me is a blogger who wrote (writes?) some incredible posts. I commented on her blog quite often and even though she didn’t have an astronomical amount of comments, she never replied to me, never responded to even one measly comment. Yet she did with others. Others seemed to be her BFFs while I was entirely ignored. Yep, right back to the bad 3rd grade version of myself. At that point, I had a decision to make. I could continue to read her blog and comment, expecting nothing. I could read and not comment. Or I could just remove her from my blogroll, unsubscribe, and stop reading. I chose the latter. It was the best move for me. My time is precious and I already spend more on the internet than I ought, so did I really need to invest time in a blog (regardless of the writing quality) where I came out hurt and feeling left out? My decision was no. And I’ve been just fine without it. :-)

    Thank you for sharing this.

    • 117

      This can be a real concern – as a fifty-something someone who is rarely offended by others – I can’t quite work out what to make of public blogging that appears to invite comments, but where the writer only, and regularly, responds to the same few people, while apparently ignoring other kind or thoughtful comments. I choose to assume the blogger is responding to personal friends who are known in real life – and that they are perhaps not really seeking a larger audience. Perhaps it is the nature of the medium – intended to be more public than a personal journal, but not a magazine article intended for public consumption (though it is available in the public sphere). I think it is wise to unsubscribe if what we find we are taking away from those blogs is building resentment.
      PS Thanks to all the (in)courage writers who spend hours reading and responding in such a non-cliquey (is that a word?) way. You bless us!

      • 118

        Hey there Judy,

        I’m so glad that you feel heard here at (in)courage. We work at it – and while we don’t always get to every comment, we love being able to engage with the (in)courage community through this strange and lovely medium of the blog world.

        warmest of wishes
        Lisa-Jo

      • 119

        Awesome post Lisa-Jo! Thank you for going there.

        Judy, I second your thanks to the writers (and readers) who do leave such beautiful and heartfelt responses. I know that must take so much time, but it does mean a lot.

        (and Dianne, your blog is just as sweet as it could be…I love the name!)

    • 120

      Hi there Dianne,

      I can relate. Blogging is a strange medium at times, this feeling that we know each other and cherish time spent chatting in the comments. So it hurts when no single attempt at conversation is returned. I can only say I understand and I’m sorry. And that you are wise to simply stop spending any emotional energy dwelling on it.

      Thanks for sharing with us.

  75. 121

    Whoa, was just talking about this topic with my hubby last night and how even with blogging we can feel left out or not truly part if we feel no one is noticing. It takes you back to “what’s my main focus here in doing … (fill in the blank)?” I just read someone’s blog recently who stated she was giving up on her blogging, maybe literally, but I think she went on to truly describe how she was giving up the requirements she put on herself to be an effective blogger (in her eyes). She realized some aspects weren’t worth it. And she gave herself the freedom to reevaluate. I love that. Losing oneself to be part of whatever is never worth the cost. You’ll probably miss out on many real, fulfilling friendships along the way in doing so.

    Again, nothing that hasn’t already been said. Great post!

  76. 122

    Lisa-Jo, I’ve been finding myself sinking into this frame of mind lately, especially because I’m away from all the action because I live in the Caribbean. It’s so easy to run and say that the other folks aren’t playing nice, but at the same time I don’t find myself making an effort to meet new people or appreciate the ones who are around me now.

    Thanks for this post, it’s so on point. It was necessary for me to see this today :)

    • 123

      Hey there Roxann,

      Yea, it’s always easier to feel like the onus should be on everyone else to make us feel included. Much harder to begin the work of being the friend we wish we had. Thank you for sharing – I think no matter where we live, we’ve all walked in your shoes.

      warmest of wishes
      Lisa-Jo

  77. 124
    Gloria says:

    Perfect words today to confirm direction given to me by the Holy Spirit during my prayer time. Thank you!

  78. 125

    He drew a circle that shut me out
    Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout
    But Love and I had the wit to win
    We drew a circle that took him in
    ~Edwin Markham

    We forget that we have the pencil in hand to draw the circle we want to stand in. Or the prayer in our hearts to draw a circle around others, ourselves, our hopes, our needs. Of course, Love has always had us in His circle.

  79. 129

    Oh bless you for this dose of sweet perspective and encouragement, Lisa-Jo. I needed this. So thank you. How desperately I have always wanted to be in, and how often I always feel as if I’m just circling the parameter.

  80. 130

    Wow!!!! Crazy good.

  81. 131

    exactly what I’ve been struggling with in the past couple years with my church girls….when certain relationships i thought should work out didn’t, God impressed on my heart to reach out to others that may need a friend, I did and It’s turned out to be a huge blessing!!!!!!

  82. 132
    K. Smith says:

    You know I too understand the being left out feeling. I can remember feeling like Why God is this happening to me. But you know I today know how to be by myself and go and do things by myself. It’s not how I would always want it to be BUT God is always with me. Thanks for this let’s me know I am not alone. Even when I feel like I am.
    Be Blessed,
    K. Smith

  83. 133

    There are cliques that, if you got in, would give you instant status and make other women jealous. But we all know that is not God’s way nor His will. We must choose to give up getting in. As soon as we begin to lay aside our own wants for the sake of others, then God can really make something of our lives. And you’re so right, Lisa, I DO dress for women, not men.

  84. 134

    This was so perfect! Im so afraid of not fitting in that I avoid even trying. I’m so use to living this way that it’s hard to change. But I can sense God trying to encourage me to be real…be who he created me to be. To take off the masks or to stop hiding in fear.
    While scary at the same time I love the places He is taking me. Thank you for your daily encouragement. Blessings.

  85. 135

    wow!
    i don’t remember how i got here, must of been facebook, but this is the very thing i have been struggling with! i was recently widowed and have had to move to a new place, i have tried to make friends here, but am failing miserably. went to church, asked for help, everyone has there own concerns, and i feel like they can’t be bothered with whiny ol me. i feel like i just cant start here, waiting till i can go home, where it doesn’t matter if i have friends, i have my family. thank you for the encouragement!

    • 136

      Someone needs you and your story. Someone needs only the kind of comfort you can offer. Find that someone and I’m guessing they’ll have just the kind of friendship and encouragement you need too.

      So glad you found your way over here – welcome and make yourself at home!

  86. 137

    Thank you for this heart balm today, LJ. xoxo

  87. 139

    You da bomb, L-J. Yeah, this is SO on target. And OF COURSE it was windy at the farm. Sigh. Thanks for risking it – look at how many are resonating with these horrible, insecurities, those tools of our enemy to keep us churning and focused on ourselves when sometimes the best thing to do is look at the one next to us.

    And this one very important thing I have learned: we ALL have a story to tell, a story of brokenness and a story of healing somewhere, sometime. And it helps to remember that when people do lousy things – either consciously or unconsciously.

    Love what you do, sister. Yeah, I do.

    • 140

      Diana, you just said “You da bomb” – oh man, I think you officially made my night.

      Thank YOU for your consistent encouragement. It means more than you can know to both me and my hair :)

  88. 141

    Lisa-Jo,
    Such a great post. And to think you were anxious to write it! You really hit the nail on the head and the comments are great. I know I definitely relate.

  89. 142
    Christine says:

    Thank you for voicing what so many of us feel, and giving us such a sweet gentle reminder to stop looking at all the other Rings out there so we can see the amazing circle we are so blessed to be living in! Recognizing that can help us to be more mindful of watching for those who are wandering alone, looking for their place, and maybe loosen our unconscious grips on those beside us, to allow another set of hands into our ring!

  90. 143

    You are simply amazing Lisa Jo. your words, everything.

    I loved it =)

  91. 144

    Thank you for this encouraging post. I really need it right now. Why? Because it just happened last Sunday at our church fellowship evening, I totally felt left out of the “group” of my girl friends at church. Yes, I am still “new” in their group, I’ve been attending the church since 2008. I still feel left out when they have something or discuss something that I do not have any ideas what the topic is.

    Whole evening I was just sitting by my self.

    This post help me to overcome that feeling. Thank you!

  92. 145

    I love this so much! Thank you for sharing from your heart! You hit home with thousands of women!

  93. 146
    Michelle says:

    Thank you for this honest and open post, as it is just something that no one seems to want to admit….that for some reason, women never “grow up”, or “graduate” from that urge to be an “insider”. As I struggled with self-esteem in my teenage years, I remember thinking, “when I’m a “”grown-up”", I won’t have to deal with this garbage any more…I’ll have great friends, and our kids will play together, etc. etc.”

    Sadly though….at 36, a mother to 4, I struggle more now with “the mean girls”,all the while trying to make friends in a state I’m a “transplant” in, feeling so out of place, and my self-esteem is even lower than when I was a fragile teenager.

    Thank you again, for bringing this into the light, as it seems that because we are all grown-up, we keep it even more in the dark, especially among groups of women that are very quick to profess their love for the Lord, and then offer to pray for you, only to speak of your harshly when your back is turned. Please know I am not trying to characterize every group of Christian women in this way…..I speak only from the sadness of my experiences of the inner rings that seem to be around every corner.

  94. 147
    Rebecca says:

    Lisa-Jo this topic is spot on! I think true friendship is a sought after commodity. Insecurity, jealously and all those nasty things skew what should be a beautiful, God-given gift.

    As someone who has been on the inside of the “popular crowd” as a child/teenager, I can tell you, you have to fight to stay there. Every move you make is scrutinised to see if you make the “cut” or not. Other people you talk to even, can make you “in” or “out”. There is nothing authentic about true cliques. I chose to break free and chart my own course.

    Funny thing is, even though I know this, years later (I’m 34 now) I still say to my husband that “I just want to have PEOPLE”. By that I mean those people who I know will talk to me in the school car park, who I see at an event and it is assumed that we will sit together, who I know that we will have plans with those people each weekend, (just because it is the weekend…) that long weekends will mean we go away together… you get the picture. It is unrealistic of course, in a small town where I am not a local (I’ve only been here 3 years), and I know the high cost of being “in” but there is still that longing.

    I am tempted to think this is a grass is always greener type of thing. However I do know that authentic friendship exists. And I’d like it. :) Is knowing that you “belong” with people a clique? I think only if “outsiders” are not welcome. I think friendship is a gift to be given away.

    Thanks for this post Lisa-Jo, your writing and the comments have given me plenty to consider as I work though this issue.

  95. 149

    Brilliant! I love it. I am an introvert, who doesn’t really care too much about keeping up with trends, till ya stick me in a group of women who are fashionable and trendy and then I start thinking “perhaps I need a new purse” “perhaps I should re think this hair style” and it goes on and on…….

  96. 150

    Love this something fierce! I can’t tell you how this year has been one spoonful of humility after another. At every turn it feels like I’ve been uninvited or intentionally excluded from “important” circles. Church teaching, blog groups, and even specific to me – a homeschool mom!!

    “You’re great Stef — just not BIG enough for us”.

    Thankfully – the “inner circle” we should be interested in striving for God opens the door and welcomes us freely. Why that is not “enough” for me sometimes pains me. But we all should be very leery of those exclusive groups that show favoritism God warns us of in James 2.

  97. 151

    Great post, Lisa Jo. I appreciate you sharing. I see cliques online, at conferences, church, communities, etc… It should not be this way, but one woman can make a difference. Refusing to be part of a clique promotes spiritual growth and strength.

    I love people and staying with one particular group would not allow me the richness of knowing the beauty and intelligence of so many diverse individuals.

    Blessings,

  98. 152

    Oh my goodness, I usually like to read the comments, BUT there are just so many here that it is just not do-able today… And that says a lot about how women feel about themselves. I was involved in youth ministry for many yrs. & I watched it happen over & over with teen girls.. it was painful to watch, but it happened to me just last week at Church. A Church I have been at since the beginning. I know everyone there & felt left out, so I left… Really?? I am 56 & need to get a grip on this : ) …. Thanks for sharing & I loved the part of dressingup to go to a farm… I do that, I think about who will be there & dress for them… Thanks for holding up a mirror for me today…

  99. 153

    WoW WoW Wow! This is one of the most amazing posts ever! I have felt like such a dud so many times (handing such power & joy to satan). I have no reason to think “I’m not as good as so & so” but my flesh has tricked me more often than not. Feeling sorry for myself or feeling left out of the “christian chick” group has caused me to stumble many times. The cruddiest part is that those feelings often turned into bitterness which then resulted in snide comments or eye rolling at anyone that I felt that exclusion from.
    OUCH OUCH, I hate writing these words!

    Who wants to admit they’re affected by NOT FITTING IN or BEING ACCEPTED? I’m grateful for the words you’ve written that remind me…I’m not the only one. But even more so—that I don’t have to live my life competing with anyone to be as good or popular as them.

    Lord,
    Make me the BEST ME I can be. Help me when I compare myself to others. Let YOUR GLORY shine through me.
    Amen

  100. 154
    Anonymous says:

    What if the situation God has put you in for a season (I hope) leaves you with no women around who will talk to you at all except women who are so unGodly and toxic that you cry yourself to sleep at night? Women who openly verbally assault you and your family despite your constant attempts to love. The praying women, the women who love Jesus, completely exclude you and won’t even respond to you. I am going on 2 1/2 years of this and I am so tired.

    • 155
      Beth Williams says:

      Anonymous,

      Loving God please provide anonymous with some Godly, loving women. Put her in places where people will include her and show her your love, grace & mercy & take away the hurt!

      Change the hearts of the women where she is now. Open their eyes to the hurt they are causing & that their attitudes are unChrist like!

      • 156

        Thank you Beth for being community and loving on Anonymous.

        It’s hard – seasons of friendlessness. But Jesus promises He will never leave us or forsake us and we can cling to His hand and His promise.

  101. 157
    Beth Williams says:

    My problem is at work. I like the co-workers, but they don’t include me in the day to day activities of the clinic, unless there is a simple need–”copy this, make a spreadsheet, find me a brochure, stock this, check the rooms for supplies, etc” Even though I’m a CMA (Medical Assistant) I’m not allowed, most of the time, to do anything with patients. I used to triage all patients and put them in the exam rooms until last fall when we went to EMR (Electronic Medical Records).

    So with that said..I pray that God will change my work venue and make me a lot happier than I have been in the past -9 months.

    I do realize that I have a wonderful group of friends that include me in everything from Bible study, to garage sales, to helping with Relay for Life (cancer). I know in my heart that I am blessed to have these God given friends!

  102. 158

    Thanks, Lisa-Jo, for these words that I so needed to hear!

  103. 159

    I wanted to thank you for this amazing post! I have not only shared this online but plan on printing it off for a Girls Lunch Out for next week to pass along.

    You have managed to say what so many of us have experienced, felt and need to see another side to the story – thank you!

    Looking forward to many more great posts to come and…passing them along to others.

    Much Love,

    Catherine Staat
    The Practical Housewife

  104. 160

    This past year was a really tough one and for a while I struggled at how alone I was in it. Friends were no where to be found, siblings I counted on vanished and I felt this left out terror all the time. But as I let it go, I noticed that the boys I am raising are on the edge of adulthood and they were there. They wanted to talk and listen and laugh and encourage. I had been raising my own inner circle unawares. And my mother who has always been my biggest fan, but so naive and guileless that I kept her just outside my circle told me, “you don’t have to protect me. I can take it.” And she has. Part of my inner circle that was there all along. And even my father who had always been so critical and rejecting stepped inside the circle and bit his tongue and reached out for me knowing I could never reach out for him. I could have kept looking outward at all of those I wished would let me in or come circle around me, but then I might have missed the circle that is for me. I’m glad I stopped looking out like that. My inner circle has turned out to be a great comfort that I never really expected. Thanks for sharing this!

  105. 161
    Amanda Mischke says:

    Amazing article!!! I am new to your blog. Can’t wait to read more. Thanks so much for posting:)

  106. 162
    Rosalyn says:

    I am also new to your blog.
    Thank you for sharing this–it was just what I needed to hear today.
    I have struggled with feeling like an outsider my whole life. I need to focus on what is ‘inside’ from where I am at, instead of trying to fit in somewhere where I really don’t belong.

  107. 163

    wow. You’ve discribed how I’ve felt nearly my whole life. I needed to “hear” this. You’re right. We really shouldn’t need to fit in. But us women are like that. You’re right….we’re blessed with those around us and shouldn’t push them aside to look for others.

    Thanks from the bottom of my heart for this post!

  108. 164

    Thank you for an immensely helpful “thought” on inner circles. Our perception of them, and all that those faulty perceptions obscure. This was fantastically encouraging!

  109. 165

    Lisa-Jo . . . . I’m in the midst of a painful season with a close friend that has re-energized those voices that tell me I’m “less than,” defective, un-love-able.

    I’ve been praying about how to navigate through (and asking for an extra measure of grace and confidence), and tonight I happened on your words. They confirm what I’ve sensed my next step needs to be: simply focus my attention on those God is bringing to my life.

    Thank you for being willing to share a vulnerable spot, and for allowing His grace to shine through your struggle.

  110. 166

    oh Lisa-Jo! once again you hit the nail squarely on the head. Thanks for this reminder. Thank you for “passing the bread” figuratively and literally. Figuratively here and literally at the first Relevant Conference, it sure made some of us at your table feel a whole lot more welcome.

  111. 167

    Simply beautiful. There seems to be a day for everything. I can dream of a day where all mom’s walk out without make-up, just as they are, and decide to be intentionally who they are REALLY on the outside and inside, as God made them—for a day. Fresh and honest and wholly real.
    And the hair, can you imagine the real hair. Wonder what it would look like if we were beautifully simple.
    Thank you for nailing this.
    I am loving this so, I must re-read and soak in the MORE OF IT.

    I find this to be so healing, your words.

  112. 168

    This is one of the best posts I’ve read all week. Thank you for your honest reflections. As I said in my tweet to you, it’s so easy to feel forgotten and “less than” – in real life and in the blogosphere.

    Your prose was simultaneously encouraging and challenging.

    Thank you for that.

  113. 169
    Anonymous says:

    I realize that this post is now many months old, but I had to reply.

    I know that things often change, especially with friendships, and one must accept change graciously and be prepared to adapt. Friendships wax and wane, it mainly depends how change is handled as to whether the friendship even can go into a holding pattern, to be revived at some later date. But I wasn’t prepared for how change actually happened to me this past week. It came up and clubbed me, slapped me, drove me into the ground.

    Because this week I made an unwitting discovery. I think it’s Bruce Springsteen who first sang, “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then” and later, a singer named Toby Keith took it and ran with it:

    I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then
    I wish I could start this whole thing over again
    I’m not sayin’ it’s you,
    You could never be true
    I just don’t wanna know how it ends
    You’d still have my heart in the palm of your hands
    I’d still look like a fool in front of your friends
    Yeah, I wish somehow I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then

    It seems they had a dilemma, and they didn’t come and ask for suggestions as to how it could be resolved in such a way as to meet, as best as possible under altered circumstances, the mutual needs of all six. Instead, a solution was chosen that meant maximum convenience for five of them, whilst I was quietly shown the door.There was no drama, and I even saw some of them from time to time, but when I mentioned our old shared interests they were evasive. The point is, they did not come to me with their problem, nor did one friend in particular do so. As hard as it would be to change, the dignity and trust shown to me by sharing the dilemma would have meant much. The analogy is of a spouse who finds themselves in need of renewed sexual zest, and instead of working on it with one’s partner, opts to begin an affair, which of course is invariably kept secret.

    Instead they did as they did, they conspired under a canopy of silence to keep it from me. Ostensibly this was to spare my feelings, in reality, like an adulterous husband, it is so as to be able to wield maximum control.

    The only thing saving me now is that they don’t know I know. Because otherwise, I could never face any of them again.

    My emotions are crashing into my head like the sea. Is this karma, a just punishment upon me for failing those 23 years to include others? I do not know.

    But I found this post as I struggled and struggle to deal with it all. I particularly appreciated CS. Lewis’ piece, thank you so much for that.

    I am resolving to try and rebuild my life, I know there are people out there that need me. Maybe they can’t share in the interests that I love, but maybe I can develop other interests. Meanwhile I must give myself time to mourn, and I thank everyone here, because you are helping me to do so.

    I felt better knowing I wasn’t alone in my feelings of loneliness, which is why I’ve posted my story: perhaps it will make others feel less lonely reading my story as I did the stories of others.

  114. 170

    I need to print this out and read it to myself every morning.

  115. 171

    Wow. I just came across this article today, and I just arrived home from a large Blogging & Social Media conference yesterday. I’m a Christian, as were a few ladies that I met, but most weren’t. But that doesn’t matter. How very, very true this article was to this weekend, and to life in general. Wise words from C.S.Lewis, and so very articulated and true thoughts from yourself.
    I met some AMAZING girls IRL this weekend, but there was almost always this nagging, ‘But I wanted to meet ______ and be THEIR BFF! I want to be in her club! I want her to be my personal blogging advisor FOR FREE because she just LOVES ME SO MUCH!’ But. I met so many wonderful ladies who will grow alongside me with their blogs. And we spent time together because we genuinely liked eachother. And had things in common. And that’s awesome. And I never once felt like I had to dress up to impress them. Though I did dress up to impress the hundreds of other ladies that were supposed to instantly be kindred spirits. Next year, I’m not going to do that.

    Also. I’ve read this post now about 6 times this afternoon. Kept it open. Sat down. Read it again. Tweeted it. Facebooked it. Read it again. Thank you. So much.

  116. 172
    Margriet says:

    Here I am, almost 51 years old and still struggle with this issue. You made me realize that I have the best circle ever; a great husband, imperfect, just like me, but my best friend of all; 6 healthy children and a very bright, intelligent daughter-in-law; a sister who loves me just the way I am; in-laws who are there for me and my family through good times and bad; a wonderful church family which is there for me and my family whenever the need arise.

    However, the relationship goes both ways. I have found that being honest and true, being assertive when necessary, accepting constructive criticism without blowing a gasket, goes a long way.

    Thank you for having the courage to help us as moms, sisters, friends, to re-define ourselves in a way that God sees us, not how others do.

    Amen and Blessings.

  117. 173

    And what if the woman sitting next to you waiting, waiting for a true loving crumb from your emotional basket is your Mother? I’ve prayed for years that my Christian daughter who is so lonely would turn to me. I love her with Gods love and grace.

  118. 174
    Heather Love says:

    Everyone is on the outside of something. But that is only half the story.

    We are all on the inside of something often without even realizing it.

    Do you see?

    Blink.

    Do you see them? Your people.

    Look around.

    Wipe the mirage out of your eyes.

    Now, who do you see?

    Reminds me of Luke 14 (ESV)

    12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers[a] or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

    Thank you for the reminder to look beyond. It is the poor, crippled, lame, blind who need our friendship the most. Aren’t we all on the inside of something? Someone needs me today.

  119. 175
    Christopher says:

    Very nice post. More women should read it. However, sometimes the advice doesn’t work. We recently left a church that we really liked because the Music Ministry – almost all women – is so much a clique (can’t spell cliquish?!) that my wife can’t serve the Lord at the church, and music is her spiritual gift. They know she has a lot of experience and a great desire, she’s been patient and respectful, but they just aren’t the least bit interested. It appears that they have their power structure in place, the cliques established, and are threatened by anyone coming in wanting to actually be involved musically in more than the most tangential manner. I honestly believe they see my wife as competition because she is very talented – even though she has absolutely NO desire to “run” anything or make decisions. Most of the musicians have been going to the church for a long time as well. I wonder if anyone else has experienced this with the Music Ministry of a church.

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