When we know we belong, we can relax. When we feel safe and confident with people, we can be real. In turn, others can be real with us. Being wanted matters. It meets deep, real needs we have for belonging.
Belonging, like our other four needs, was wired into us by God and the healthiest way to meet it is in Him. As you can see from the pyramid of our needs, it’s dependent upon the quality of our security, which I explained in detail here a month ago. Our identity also matters. If it’s healthy, the chances are better that we’ll choose to belong to people who are good for us. I explained this core need in detail three weeks ago here.
Belonging is important partly because the people we serve and hang out with can provide or affirm our purpose or convince us we don’t have one. Without a purpose, competence isn’t necessary. Without being able to do things well, defeat, discouragement, and hopelessness can settle in.
Belonging: Who wants me?
I experienced the power of the order of the needs over the weekend in several ways. I spoke at the Purposeful Parenting conference at a church in Indianapolis. My assistant, Linda, couldn’t go with me so a friend who is one of my thought leaders who has only traveled with me one other time came. Because Joyce and I know each other well, we know we can trust each other. I knew she was confident in what I expected, and I knew I could trust her in every situation. Because of our solid security, our identities went unchanged. We could be true to ourselves, and this meant our belonging was healthy. Therefore, we could both fulfill our purposes with excellence and competence.
Does this illustration help you understand how the way you’re meeting one of your needs and helping your children do the same influences the way the others are met? The connections between the needs can help you determine where to intervene when you see problems with beliefs and behaviors.
Maybe you’ll be able to relate to this slice of the weekend. I had spoken with my hostess and exchanged emails, but we hadn’t met until she picked us up at the airport. By the time we arrived at the church 45 minutes later, I knew all would be well. She was so much fun. So real. Very comfortable with herself which made us comfortable. Joyce and I were able to be successful. We were never distracted by an unhealthy belonging. We never felt like we had to perform to be accepted. I never worried about whether I’d be “good enough.” I knew I was wanted. Therefore, fulfilling my purpose with competence naturally followed.
Have you experienced times when you knew you belonged, fit in, and were wanted and it made all the difference? These are the experiences your children need. The quality of their belonging can explain why they are or aren’t successful.
Our hostess did another wise thing that contributed to the success of the weekend. She had a committee help her with the event. This meant many in the room knew each other well. There was healthy belonging among them and many who attended. They owned how things were going. It was part of their security and identity. You could almost feel the purpose and competence in the room because the first three needs were so solidly met.
Can you think of a time when you served, and your engagement with the people and task made a positive difference for you and others? If you have, then you know these are reasons to help children get involved with others.
What do these illustrations point out?
Finding our belonging in God makes belonging the most solid and secure. His love for us is deep and wide. It’s unconditional. He accepts us and wants the best for us. The relationship each of us has with God was the foundation of our belonging this past weekend. Between Joyce and me. Between our hostess and Joyce and me. Among the committee members. Among all of us in attendance.
Do your children know God and that He can fulfill their need to belong?
We can meet part of our belonging need by choosing to connect deeply with trustworthy people. What qualities does that make you think of? Dependable, honest, responsible, humble people? People who own their mistakes and apologize? People who listen and are fully present? It was qualities like these that made it easy to relate to our hostess.
Do your children know how to identify these and other qualities in their friends so they can choose who to get closer to? Do they behave in these ways toward others?
Many adults choose to form friendships with people who share similar beliefs. This tends to increase the quality and length of relationships. It often means they’ll have other things in common, too, which makes conversations rich. We can spend time together and have plenty to engage us. I saw this in the people who attended the parenting conference. Their joy and desire to connect during breaks made it hard to get them back in their seats!
When your children know what they believe and why they do, they’ll be able to talk about their opinions and ideas more confidently. They’ll more likely find others who believe what they believe. Therefore, they may change their minds less often, and that can be good, assuming their beliefs are healthy, of course.
Another reason the weekend went so well is that we shared strengths, talents, and interests. This is why identity – Who am I? – precedes belonging. Everyone in attendance wanted to learn more about parenting well. This interest kept us focused and unified. It and the strengths people exhibited throughout the day gave us much energy.
Do your children know who they are? Can they articulate their interests and talk about talents and strengths appropriately when trying to connect with peers?
What do you think of all this? If you evaluated the quality of your belonging and that of your children’s would you be pleased with the scores? God? Trustworthy people? Beliefs? Talents, strengths, and interests? What might you think more about? Talk about first? Work on first? I wish you well!
Come back to the blog next Monday when I’ll write about friendship skills and their role in helping kids develop a healthy belonging.