In part one of this article, I touched on the power of family to influence an individual’s sense of value. In part two I would like to expound on this a little bit and look at how being valued in a family correlates to how secure that individual is and how much courage they have to engage in relationships outside the family unit.
Food and Provision
If you have any experience with living creatures of any kind, you know there are a few things that MUST be provided in order to gain trust. First and foremost is food and water, not just once but consistently. These are two of the most basic needs of any living creation; therefore, the provision of these things consistently gains trust. This may sound to you like basic information that is irrelevant because your family has not ever starved anyone, and that’s good, but please consider this:
As children are developing and learning in the home, if there is a lack of consistency in a parent’s ability to earn money, or a parent is verbalizing worry about having money, or there are no options for food in the home when a child gets hungry, it sends a message of insecurity.
This can cause a child to have anxiety about whether or not there will be food for the next meal or even stay alive. This may not be a real danger but just a matter of the parent not wanting to go to the store or not wanting to cook.
As a child matures and can reason enough to know or witness a parent spending money on things other than food, shelter, water, etc., this child is being taught that they are not valued enough by their parent to make sure needs are met. Please understand that this is not a value statement verbalized by parents but demonstrated by their actions. As a result, a child becomes distrustful of the parent and often will not bond with them because of their sense that they will not be taken care of if they entrust themselves to their parent.
I am not saying that if you are not financially stable that you cannot raise children well or that they will not bond with you as a result. Many families for many decades have raised children who feel stable even through poverty and difficult economic times. The key piece is not money, the key piece is making the needs of family members a priority so every member knows that we will work together to make sure basic needs are met and that we will protect one another first before we do anything else.
While food, water, and shelter are certainly the most important needs, evidence of effort to provide those needs creates security. This is one of the biggest issues with addiction in families. It places the “need” of the addict above the needs of everyone else in the family unit. Paul talks of this concept regarding our treatment of others as a way to follow Christ’s example in Philippians 2:3-4:
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out, not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
We must understand that by our priorities and actions we demonstrate to a person how valuable they are by how much we prioritize their needs.
Food and provision are not the only things needed to be consistent in order for a child or family member to feel secure. Discipline, emotional responses, daily routines in general, bed times, sleep schedules, morning routines, etc. are all things that contribute to a person’s sense of security. No matter their age, consistency makes people feel safe.
I’m guessing as you read this you are pondering how this situation may affect a person emotionally, and it does, but it is really so much more than that for long term. A person who knows they have a “safety net” or “a place to land” or knows they have “someone who has their back”, is much more courageous and has an easier time taking “risks” than someone who feels like they are alone and vulnerable.
Love and Belonging
The thing about basic needs is that we are constantly pursuing them until they are met, so it is difficult for a person who feels insecure or unsafe to pursue the next level of needs, which are love and belonging in other groups. To pursue outside relationships would require this individual to make themselves open and vulnerable without any “safe place” to come back to. When that individual does pursue love and belonging in relationships with another person or group besides their parent and experiences rejection, they may begin to question their general worth, not just in the context of parent/child relationship. You can see understand how a lack of security could impact courage as a person enters the world as a young adult.
While a lack of security certainly affects a person’s ability to trust and connect to others, it also affects their ability to trust themselves. When a child’s basic needs are not consistently met by parents, it presents a road block in their thinking. When launching from the home it is difficult for this young adult to comprehend, that they have the ability to meet their own needs rather than continuing to look to others. As adults, we can make choices that involve taking responsibility for our own provision and protection in regard to food, water, shelter. We can choose to get a job, go to work everyday, choose what we spend our money on, and choose to do what is required by our employers. When an adult chooses to not do these things it is self-sabotaging behavior.
Everything that we do not actually have control over we can entrust to God who has control over all. He is trustworthy, and He values us enough to not only make sure our needs are met but also makes a relationship with us a priority. He sacrificed His Son, Jesus, in order to provide us with security not only in this life but in the life to come.
In this one act, He demonstrated to us that we are loved and have a place to belong. As parents we serve as an image of God, to teach our children about how a good parent behaves. When we do our best to mimic God’s example, we not only provide stability for our children but also point them to their ultimate stability, which is in God.
One final note, as we wrap up this section on how security and courage are impacted by the family.
Protection and Acceptance
When people feel protected and accepted they tend to be comfortable with who God created them to be and comfortable acting accordingly. If not, they are constantly second guessing themselves or tend to put on a façade to make themselves “more acceptable” with whomever they are interacting at the moment. This produces a life of constantly trying to be something they were not created to be and a loss of who they truly are.
Sometimes they get tired of the act of pleasing others and give up on relationships altogether and are left feeling alone, worthless, or defective. Of course this results in low self-worth, and they not only give up on relationships but often on themselves.
In Psalm 139:14, David praises God for how he was created and he ends the verse with this statement:
Marvelous are your works, and that my soul knows quite well.
My hope is that as you are reading this, you come to understand that the marvelous works of God are on display in how He created you. Also, understand that if you are a parent or caregiver you are actively aware of His marvelous works on display in the person for which you’re responsible. My prayer is that as you create a safe and secure environment in which they can know their value, they will live out God’s purpose for them with confidence and courage and praise Him for “His marvelous works”.
In the last part of the Power of the Family, we will be exploring how the family unit impacts culture. Until then, rest in God’s consistent security.