For most people, their family is their most important tribe. Our family members are our kin. The family bond and our familiarity with each other means we trust and welcome our family with open arms. They provide us with a core strength that can power us through life.
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. They are our kith.
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 ‘part’ is by definition only a partial commitment. That’s not going ‘all in’.
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. 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. We need to feel a sense of tribe.
A 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.
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.
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.
In contrast, if we are excluded or required to prove ourselves before being admitted to a group, we won’t fully commit ourselves. 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.
We live, work and socialise with hundreds of people outside our family tribe. We are not just kinsfolk, we are kith to many others and they are kith to us. Be welcoming yourself, in order to be welcomed by your 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.