“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
At the very deepest core of who we are as people, we desire connection with others. We want to feel known, loved, accepted as we are. It is these connections that, as in the C.S. Lewis quote, help us to ward off the miserable feeling of being alone in our experiences, isolated. But how do we build meaningful relationships, or bonds, with others and why do so many find it difficult to develop healthy, fulfilling relationships?
At Compass Rose Academy, our definition of bonding extends to our connection to God. Our capacity to relate to God and others, to connect to someone outside of ourselves, depends on our ability to reach out to safe relationships in a vulnerable way. Through these “need-based attachments,” we build close relationships with others who know the real us, including our needs as well as the good, bad, and the ugly.
As children, we take in lots of love from our parents and form emotional memories that soothe and comfort us during times of stress. Through this parental care, we learn that it is OK to need others, and we develop an understanding that relationships are a source of good in our lives. This helps us to want and pursue relationships for the rest of our lives. These soothing emotional memories also keep us going during periods of isolation and hopelessness. However, people who did not have enough warm experiences as children or who experience trauma in life, sometimes have trouble developing relationships and trusting others.
One of the big focuses of the upcoming Parent Weekend is on bonding and taking relationships to a deeper level. We’re going to look at some of the barriers to good and healthy communications, and how we can break down those barriers. We’ll have several exercises related to that theme. For example, we will use Dr. John Townsend’s eight-step model to practice healthy communications. Though all relationships have conflicts, we will show how we can work through them in a healthy way. Parents and teens will get a chance to practice understanding and listening through experiential exercises.
Another approach to relationships will be a discussion of the culture of appreciation. Families can create rituals that show that every member is valued for his or her good qualities and for what they contribute to the everyday life of the family. We can learn to shift the focus from the cycle of negative behaviors and reactions to the bonds that draw and hold us together as a family.
Relationships are beautiful additions to our lives but, beautiful as they are, problems can prevent us from developing meaningful ones. Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection says that those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have in common the courage to be imperfect, to display vulnerability with others. We hurt ourselves when we try to convince ourselves or others that we don’t need other people in our lives or when we power through adversity with sheer grit and determination instead of allowing ourselves to voice a need, acknowledge weakness, or ask for help. We also hurt ourselves when we are unable to trust other people – or God.
The Bible holds valuable advice on bonding and developing relationships:
• Genesis 2:18: “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” This reference to our creation is not only about marriage but also relationships in general. From the very beginning, we were hard-wired for relationship; we were made for love.
• 2 Corinthians 7:6-7: “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him.” Notice in this scripture that God provides comfort through Titus. God designed life in a way that we would meet our needs relationally through Him and through each other.
• 1 Peter 4:10: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in it is various forms.” We are God’s grace-bearers, his image-bearers, impacting those around us and distributing his grace through relationship.
We always look forward to Parent Weekends as they give both the teen and their parents an opportunity to learn and grow in ways that are unparalleled. It also gives parents an opportunity to bond with one another. All of our parents come from different walks of life, but they typically discover they have a lot of shared experiences which allows them to really connect in ways they’ve never connected with other families before. Connecting to God and others is a vital component of our daily lives and how we grow as individuals. Compass Rose understands that relationship is like a fuel that gives life to individuals and families.