Have you ever felt missed? Like you were with someone and they just didn't get it? Maybe not just it...maybe they didn't get you?
Maybe you took a risk and you put yourself out there to let yourself be seen or known. And then, you weren't?
You weren't seen.
You weren't known.
I feel pretty confident each of us has a story like that. At some point, you felt like you were on the outside. Maybe it was the popular group. Maybe it was the smart kids. Maybe it was the athletes. Maybe it was the family who wasn't messed up. Maybe it was the married folks. Maybe it was the singles; each story different but also the same.
I believe the reason this hurts us so deeply is because we were made for connection. We crave it, because it's a physiological need. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually we need to know we are not alone. One of the most striking examples of this idea is referencing orphans from Romania in the 1980's and 90's. Longitudinal studies of Romanian orphans in orphanages showed the devastating effect that the lack of connection through a primary caregiver/parent had on these kiddos. And we are not just talking small stuff, we are talking significant developmental, emotional and physical health (read more on that here).
These types of examples show us that God made us for relationship and for community. I believe part of the reason we often have difficulties connecting with God in a healthy way, is because of the unhealthy ways we connect with each other. We tend to believe whatever has been modeled for us. If all you have known is rejection, it is very difficult to imagine God being any different.
So what does it really mean to connect? I love how vulnerability and shame researcher, Brene Brown put it here:
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
She is discussing connection in terms of a constellation of characteristics that cause us to feel known and strengthened through that relationship. It is not merely a checklist regarding what brings us together, but rather a way in which we are with each other. Brene posits that the thing which allows us to truly have connection is empathy. She defines empathy this way:
Interestingly, Brene's description of connection/empathy resonates quite a bit with a Biblical perspective of love. The apostle Paul gives us a great definition of love and I believe an answer to what facilitates connection/empathy:
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is such an overused word in our culture, but a core piece of authentic love is the desire to connect; to honor another's experience just because they exist. Ultimately, I believe the greatest example of love and empathy is God coming to earth to know us, join us, and save us (more on that here).
So where do we go with this?
I believe it is vital for us to recognize how deeply we all long to be known and connected. Otherwise, we risk believing we can do this for ourselves.
And the truth is, we can't. Our role is to be available, loving and wise. And when we see potential for that relationship, to take a risk and be vulnerable enough to let them know us (and vice versa).
My hope for you today is that you would recognize that just because you exist, you are worthy of being known. Even more, it is worth the risk to be known.
When do you feel most connected to others in your life?