Jean Vanier on Belonging

Jean Vanier

Jean Vanier turned 84 yesterday.  He, along with Henri Nouwen have been significantly formative to my understanding of community.  Here are some important words on belonging. 

It is because we belong with others and see them as brothers and sisters in humanity that we not only learn to accept them as they are, with different gifts and capacities, but to see each one as a person with a vulnerable heart.  We learn to forgive those who hurt us or reject us; we ask forgiveness of those we have hurt.  We learn to accept humbly those who point out our errors and mistakes and who challenge us to grow in truth and love.  We support and encourage each other on the journey to inner freedom.  We learn how to be close to those who are weaker and more vulnerable, those who may be sick or going through crises or grieving.  As we accept our personal limits and weaknesses, we discover that we need others and we learn to appreciate others and to thank them.

So it is that belonging is the place where we grow to maturity and discover what it means to be human and to act in a human way.  It is the place we need in order to live and to act in society, in justice, in truth, without self seeking power, privileges and honours for our own self-glory.  It is the place where we learn to be humble but also audacious and to take initiatives in working with others.  It is the place where our deepest self rises up into our consciousness and so we become more fully ourselves, more fully human.

Jean Vanier, “Becoming Human” 59.

Where do you belong?


  1. la cebra! · September 13, 2012

    As a Jew in a mennonite community, I am not that sure where I belong. I belong with my people, but it’s not as easy… If I judge only from the lines above, I belong with the menno community. I am happy there, but deeply split and always lacking a bit.

    But I definitely bewlong with Torah and Tanakh, and this we have in common – whether we’re jewish or mennonite.

    • Chris Lenshyn · September 13, 2012

      Thanks for your words and sharing. It is encouraging that you have managed to find a sense of belonging with some other brothers and sisters of the book. Sharing in common the Torah and other books of the Old Testament is significant. A reminder that we are tied together within the pages of history and actions of God. I long for a time where interfaith dialogue, particularly with brothers and sisters of the book will be grounded in respect and hope.

      Prayers and blessings!

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