Monday, October 4, 2010

Navigating the turbulence of Cliques

“Didn’t Jesus start cliques?” You can imagine my surprise at this question, which came from a mom who had the unfortunate fate of sitting next to me on a flight. She went on to explain. “Jesus spoke to the masses, but he also chose 12 to be his friends, and then three of them to be part of his inner circle. Doesn’t that sound like a clique to you?”

Out of context, maybe so. But let’s take a look at the true nature of a clique, and what you can do as a parent to manage the social tension around this issue.

The word “clique” comes from an old French word meaning “to latch”. Exclusivity, locking others out, is central to the formation of a clique – some are allowed in, and others can only observe from the outside.

Jesus had many followers, a crowd he called disciples. When the time was right, Jesus chose 12 of them to groom and prepare for leadership. Jesus was well aware that within a short amount of time, he would no longer be physically present on Earth, and the responsibility for this Divine movement would fall on the shoulders of very ordinary humans. The leadership role they would bear would lead each one of them to a martyr’s death. Imagine advertising your clique based on certainty of death!

The key to understanding healthy friendship, close-knit community, and leadership formation as distinctly different from cliques, gangs and closed-door clubs revolves around this concept of inclusion. Jesus, maybe above all other qualities, was openly loving and accepting. Even the Pharisee who approached Jesus with an honest question found him open to friendship. Take a moment to read Jesus’ statement to his followers in John 13:34-35.

Now let’s apply this idea in real-time.

1. Encourage your child as he or she makes new friends. Just as Jesus met new people along the road, affirm your kids as they tell you about new students they have met.

2. Applaud your child’s attempts to notice and to include those sitting on the outside. Most of us know what it is like to be “outside looking in.” Help your child notice the kids who are not engaging in whatever the activity might be, and then discuss the joy he or she witnessed when that child was invited to join in the fun.

3. Model openness in your adult friendships, and a posture of acceptance toward others. Yes, believe it or not, our children notice the way we relate socially to other adults. They hear our comments about neighbors or who should be invited to the dinner party. By practicing openness and acceptance you set an example worthy of imitation.

And, as I told the lady on the plane, Jesus came up with this idea.

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