What are kith and kin?
Our friendship groups and acquaintances form other separate tribes. They might be made of workmates, school or college friends, neighbours or people from your local sports club. Our friends are our kith. We can have many different groups of them. They all mean something different to us.
For most people, their family is their most important tribe. The family bonds we’re born into usually offer us a higher form of togetherness. Generally, these bonds mean we trust and welcome our family with open arms. They provide us with a core strength that can power us through life. Our family members are our kin.
Our lives are dominated by our relationships with kith and kin. Both terms have Germanic origins. Kith means ‘known to’ and Kin means ‘born into’. Our kith and kin provide us with groups that we can be part of. And being part of something bigger can be really good for us. But a ‘part’ is by definition only a partial commitment. That’s not going ‘all in’. And we should go all in. Shouldn’t we?
Bonds of belonging
Where they can, most people commit to their family. Kin offers a powerful bond that will stay strong under pressure. With kith, that bond provides us with less certainty, less reliability. That’s why we hold back with some kith groups. We need to feel a strong sense of belonging before our commitment becomes complete and wholehearted.
Our sense of belonging comes from how well a tribe meets our own needs and how well the other tribe members accept us. Belonging to a group requires positive relationships with the other members of that group. That takes effort on both sides.
New Kith and Kin
We have to bring a flexible attitude and a sense of sacrifice to any new group. We have to be prepared to adopt that tribe’s vision, purpose and values (VPV). We have to be prepared to commit ourselves for the long term. In turn, the existing tribe members need to welcome us in. Everyone has to do their bit for their tribe.
If we are welcomed into a new group with open arms, immediately included in what’s going on; and instantly trusted, we will quickly belong. That’s because we love to feel valued. It helps us find contentment. Being welcomed in is a life-enhancing process.
That doesn’t just have to happen to us, if can happen because of us. We can all pass this positivity on to other people. By welcoming in the next generation to our tribe, we can help to create a virtuous circle that’s perpetual and self-sustaining.
Don’t be exclusive
In contrast, if we are excluded or required to prove ourselves before being admitted to a group, we won’t fully commit to it. We hold ourselves back until we feel truly welcome. Our understandable reluctance makes us less flexible; and therefore, in turn, less attractive and acceptable to that tribe. In the same way that welcoming new people encourages them to commit, unwelcoming them actively discourages commitment.
The act of ‘unwelcoming’ someone creates a vicious circle, rather than a virtuous one. Exclusion is a guaranteed way to detach, demotivate and devalue your people.
A warm welcome
We live, work and socialise with hundreds of people outside our family tribe. We are not just kinsfolk, we are also kith to many others and they are kith to us. We have to be welcoming ourselves, in order to be welcomed in by our kith and kin.
How committed to each group of your kith are you? How much belonging do they give you? If you are lucky enough to feel a sense of kith with other people, how welcoming are you to new joiners? Don’t pull up the welcome ladder. Be kind to your kin.