Human Connection: A Basic Need?
There’s something innate about human beings desiring to be connected.
From early civilizations to modern times, there is a natural draw that every human being feels to be close to someone in some form of a group setting. Even those self-proclaimed introverts often find solace in being close to, or at the very least connected, to others.
What is it about us that makes us yearn for some type of community in our lives?
I think the answer is relatively simple: God has designed us to be that way. He has placed this draw, this inclination, towards such an end. But for what purpose?
There is ample research showing again that humans have always gravitated towards one another — from early tribes to local villages to empires and even modern-day suburbia. Now, before you picture the suburban family putting up their fences and staying confined with the help of their garage doors, please recognize that the largest demographic of club sports organizations and other competitive teams are comprised of these suburban families. They spend most of their days, weekends, and years participating in competitive sports — with other people. However isolated a person may appear, there is usually some thread, some line of connection that a person has with another person. Human beings will always be drawn towards one another.
A somber topic to bring up but one that gives clarity to the conversation at hand is, “What happens when a human being lacks connection to another?”
I’ve had the opportunity to live and travel abroad and have seen firsthand the impact community and human connection have in many different cultures. One experience that lives on vividly in my mind was during a visit to an orphanage in the southern region of Russia. The orphanage conditions would bring any adult to tears as you witnessed the lack of opportunity for many kids to experience interaction with one another, let alone with a nurturing adult. Some infants spent the first year of their life confined to a crib. These toddlers already were manifesting a lack of social skills because they had never been fully allowed, for multiple reasons, to engage with one another or with a nurturing adult. The mental health of these children was significantly underdeveloped, and the lack of social interaction exhibited in these children would make you question their cognitive abilities.
Infants need direct contact with a parent or nurturing adult, as this interaction creates neurological pathways within the brain. Research shows this direct contact establishes a person’s ability to interact with others. As their brains grow, and as they grow, continued interaction is a necessary part of their development. It creates even more pathways, gives them outlets for experiencing emotions, and facilitates their ability to learn how to communicate with another human being.
It’s why one of the growing trends in American psychology is to evaluate a child’s parental interactions when diagnosing certain social skills that are lacking. It’s why the field of Occupational Therapy has grown over the last decade because for the many kids who display a lack of control in their emotions or actions need to have their neural pathways realigned by something as simple as play therapy. Also, it’s why some adults who experience trauma at a young age require a different type of therapy that involves direct contact instead of the traditional speaking and listening form of counseling.
Community is part of our development, physically. It is a part of our health, mentally. But what does it do for us spiritually?
If human beings are made in the image of God, and in the image of God, we see that He is a relational being (The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit), and we lack a sense of relationship with another person, then the image of God does not become fully realized. You are made to be connected to another person(s).
In the context of most churches, you find frequent emphasis and encouragement to be part of that church’s small group ministry. And by no means is its frequency because they are trying to reach a number cap of small group involvement. So, if not for numbers, what purpose then?
In these smaller settings of community, you are given the opportunity to connect with another person, be known by others, interact with others, experience a range of emotions with others, and be exhibiting the full picture of what God does intend for His people. You are not made to be alone, nor are you expected to live your walk with Jesus alone [Hebrews 10:24–25].
You are not made to be alone, nor are you expected to live your walk with Jesus alone.
At the very least, to be connected to another person(s) in the form of community brings you a sense of belonging. It allows you to maintain, or even develop, sound mental health.
If you do a simple Google search on the impact of COVID-19 on mental health in the United States, you will find an emphatic increase in mental health issues across all generations of people. The lockdown measures that impacted the office environment, the dining industry, brick and mortar stores, church attendance, etc., also directly impacted a person’s mental health. The feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation were key identifiers for most individuals in our nation as we all sought to navigate a situation that we had never visited before.
What did you do the moment certain restrictions were lifted? Where did you go? Who did you see? For many, the answer to those questions was some type of community establishment with family or friends that they had not seen in several weeks. For me, it felt so good to feel the freedom to have friends come over for 6 hours and just to physically be with people I care about. It was good for my mental health.
Never underestimate the positive impact of simply being with others and what it can do for your mental health, your development, and most importantly, for theirs. For those of you who don’t know Christ as Savior, who don’t believe, recognize that God so desperately wants you to know that He knows you and wants you to be in community with Him and His people. And for those who are in Christ, it is in these relationships that God uses you to impact others.
How will you engage?