“Relationships are the oxygen of human development.”
-Dr. Peter Benson
Without caring relationships, we cannot thrive. Research has shown that babies without touch and attention physically fail, a condition literally termed “failure to thrive.” We need in-person, face-to-face connection with others in order to grow as we were designed—emotionally, mentally, and even physically. In the presence of safety and love, our minds relax—we can become expressive, creative, and vulnerable. We become ourselves in the context of others.
Our spirituality is also dependent on others. If spirituality isn’t modeled for us, we might feel a longing, but the discovery of a rich spiritual life will be limited. We need to watch the people we care about model religious and spiritual practices, and our spiritual growth requires loving support when we are searching and wrestling with life’s big questions. Communal practices and rituals reinforce our beliefs about God and the world, and ideally provide us with narratives about a loving source.
Here are a couple of thoughts and questions to help you look at the relationships around you—inward, outward, and upward.
INWARD: Do you feel loved and accepted for your true self and unique giftedness?
Having a context in which we feel fully seen for our true selves and loved through our weaknesses is essential to healthy spirituality. This kind of love is healing and creates space for us to grow and unfold as ourselves. Healing relationships can allow us to more fully grasp that we are loved by a loving God.
Dr. Sue Johnson has researched the power of loving connection for many years. In her book, Hold Me Tight, she offers revolutionary insight and practical tools for building loving relationships. She also joins us for a conversation about this on our With and For podcast.
OUTWARD: Do you belong to people in your life who “get you”? People who know what truly matters to you, understand your strengths and weaknesses, and can care for your needs?
To belong to someone means to be known by them as well as loved by them. The two can exist apart from each other, but when they coexist, we have tapped into an unconditionally loving relationship. Furthermore, when we reciprocate by offering back the experience of being known, accepted, and loved–that is even more powerful. Isolation negatively impacts our spirituality and overall health in many other ways. In our blog series on relationships, we walk through our collective journey away from connection and how we can get back to healthy relational communities.
The current U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, wrote the book, Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, where he discusses loneliness as a modern-day endemic. He offers simple steps we can take to make big strides forward towards healthy social connections and loving relationships.
UPWARD: Do you believe you are loved by a loving God or source? How have your relationships influenced these beliefs?
Because we are all created in the image of God, our interactions with each other were designed to perfectly reflect different parts of who God is. Our closest relationships often allow us to experience closeness with God, but relationships can also detract from our closeness with God if they are unhealthy. When we connect to healthy relationships and communities that allows us to feel known and loved, drawing near to God can be a healing and affirming experience.
Do you have relationships that inspire closeness with God (Ex., a coach, parent, friend, coworker, pastor, youth worker) and allow you to feel deeply loved? We have a practice in part 1 of our Created for Community blog that offers a deeper dive into this question.
Created for Community (Part 1): How We Moved Away From our Village
Humans thrive within community, but our modern age encourages poor relational habits. Think about the nature of your relationships with the help of the practice in this post.
Created for Community (Part 2): The Human Connection in Healthy Spirituality
What does healthy spirituality have to do with our relationships? While our capacity for spirituality is hard-wired, our spirituality is in fact mostly developed relationally. We learn our beliefs and practices from others.
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