The Longing in Belonging
The Longing in Belonging
Why do we congregate at church, barbeques, or family gatherings? Why do people take issue with socially distancing and isolation? Psychologists warn us that separating ourselves from family, friends and even co-workers can have physical, psychological, and emotional effects. With self-isolation and quarantine becoming the new norm, it seems that we are losing the sense of community, the sense of belonging that previously united us. Psychologist Abraham Maslow calls this the “need for love and belonging.”
The need for love and belonging is hard-wired into our DNA and nurtured in our environment. Beginning with bonding to parents at birth, we are born into familial relationships that provide for our physiological and safety needs. We live in defined relationships that foster our sense of identity (faith, ethnicity, schools, citizenship, clubs, etc.). However, today we find ourselves isolated, socially distanced and in some instances quarantined from each other. Visiting the doctor has become an exercise in logging into our medical mobile app. Classrooms have been replaced by online meeting forums, and the internet has become the new teacher. We are separated from family members in critical care units, we work from home and are being asked to travel only when necessary. Even the way that we worship has changed; the parking lot replacing pews and participation in church services requiring a social media platform. But this isn’t how we were meant to live. God said, “It isn’t good for the man to live alone. I need to make a suitable partner for him (Genesis 2:18, CEV).”
The current coronavirus pandemic and our financial, political, and social climates have fostered an environment in which we are technologically connected and emotionally disconnected. At the same time, we are also seeing a world crying out for equality and social justice. These cries, like those of the enslaved Egyptians, are a reminder that we need each other to grow and build a sense of belonging. We’ve learned, or at least been reminded, that we need relationships to not only survive, but thrive. We need to feel a sense of belonging to something larger than ourselves. But building a sense of belonging doesn’t happen by accident. Whether in our community, workplace, family or church, bonds are created by following a pattern of recognition, evaluation, and approval.
- Recognition is more than seeing and acknowledging the physical presence of someone. As a mediator, I’ve routinely heard the complaint that not being acknowledged or greeted made people feel as though they didn’t exist. A simple “Good morning,” rather than avoiding or looking past someone, can have a tremendous impact on our bonding experience.
- Evaluation is the process of considering our similarities and differences. It is not only identifying the physical aspects we share (i.e. gender, race, etc.) but our differences. (i.e. values, education, religion, etc.). Our differences help us create our self-identity and celebrate uniqueness, while building on similarities allow us to know others on a deeper level and reinforces our sense of community and fellowship.
- “Acceptance of a person is the act of agreeing to that person’s becoming a member of an organization or group as an equal (Cambridge Dictionary).” Acceptance reaffirms our membership in families, organizations, churches, or other social institutions. Our influence, esteem, respect, and bonds grow, and are reinforced, by behaving consistently within acceptable group norms.
While understanding how bonds are formed can help improve our relationships, we should recognize that these aren’t fixed. We continuously reexamine our relationships as life happens. A relationship may change or fail when feelings of betrayal occur causing us to redefine or withdraw from a relationship. “Failed relationships happen for many reasons, and the failure of a relationship is often a source of great psychological anguish. Most people have to work consciously to master the skills necessary to make relationships endure and flourish. Strong relationships are continually nurtured with care and communication” (Psychology Today, 2020).
The foundation for building strong relationships and growing our sense of belonging begins with humility. “Humility is the ability to be without pride or arrogance and it is a main character that should be seen in those who follow Jesus Christ.” When we approach others with humility, like Jesus, we present ourselves as we truly are. Humility allows us to be vulnerable and begin to bond with each other, and perhaps more importantly to be present with each other. As actor James Earl Jones said:
“You don't build a bond without being present.”
Challenge: Relationships require our constant care and attention. Like the farmer we reap and sow the harvest of our relationships (Hosea 10:12, GNT). Gotquestions.org states that:
“When we come to Christ as sinners, we must come in humility. We acknowledge that we are paupers and beggars who come with nothing to offer Him but our sin and our need for salvation. We recognize our lack of merit and our complete inability to save ourselves. Then when He offers the grace and mercy of God, we accept it in humble gratitude and commit our lives to Him and to others.”
At Lead Like Jesus, we seek to build relationships that nourish each other, and honor God. Won’t you join us? Send us your thoughts and comments on steps we can take to accomplish this.
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