Where do I Belong?

In a previous blog post, I described a scene out of my own life story. It was a Conflict. It was an illustration of a relationship that was not working. The relationship was dysfunctional. It seemed to be failing in its purpose. There were two people involved, members of the same family, brother and sister. They were children. One was a 13-year-old girl (me) and the other was a 12-year-old boy (my brother). The brother reviled the sister and the sister Turned and Reviled Again and then the brother Turned and Reviled Again.

Functional Family Relationships

Years later, during my training, I had to learn what a functional family relationship was. And when I did, I was able to see how Conflicts between family members can be prevented or resolved before they get out of hand. So this is what I learned:

Functional family relationships are relationships that work. They are successful in their purpose. The following scenarios show how to maintain functional family relationships:

Scenario 1: Kindness Starts with Me

Siblings treat each other with kindness.

Scenario 2: Forgive, Repent, Recommit

A brother reviles a sister and the sister does not Turn and Revile Again. The sister would be previously trained to use one of the following levels of Conflict Resolution Processes given her maturity level:

  • Level 1: She ignores him and/or asks him to stop.
  • Level 2: If the reviling hurt, she talks her own insecurities and needs over privately with a parent and learns how to resolve these personal Conflicts separately.
  • Level 3: She redirects his behavior.
  • Level 4: She treats him with continued kindness in return.
  • Level 5: She thinks about which of his needs aren’t being met and/or wonders what adversity (or lack of it) he’s experiencing that is causing him to revile others.
  • Level 6: She seeks for more long-term ways to meet his needs appropriately in order to balance his adversity level.

At any of these levels, if his reviling is continuous and the sister doesn’t know what to do about it or doesn’t have the endurance to implement it, she asks a parent to help resolve the Conflict. The parent implements the higher level Conflict Resolution Processes. The hope is that the brother will repent–say he is sorry for what he did–at any of these levels or that the parent will teach him how to apologize and recommit. Of course, this is idealistic. It’s the goal for children to work out their Conflicts with each other in this manner. They’re not going to have any idea of what their roles are or how to do any of this if they are not trained. It’s kind of like wild horses. They’re just going to run wild unless they are trained.

Identify the Purpose

When relationships don’t work, they don’t fulfill their purpose. If that purpose was important to us then we want to fix the problem. We want to resolve the Conflict. So what is the purpose of a family? When it is functional as in the above scenarios, what is the result? What was God trying to accomplish by setting us up in families? These were my questions. In order to assess the answers, the Lord had to explain basic human needs to me. I wrote about this a little in the last blog post but I’m going to review it here.

Basic Humanity

It was a shocker for me to learn that every human being needs love. It seems like a no-brainer but I had never really thought about it before–at least in the way the Lord showed it to me in 2006. I remember reading a book called, “The Belonging Heart: The Atonement and Relationships with God and Family” by Bruce C. and Marie K. Hafen. It described our basic human need as amae, which is a Japanese concept that translates best into the English word belonging. There are so many different meanings for the word love that I had become completely confused about its core meaning. But when I read this book, I was seeing the concept of love from a whole new perspective. Here’s a quote from it: “The word amae, for which no English equivalent exists, describes the innate need and desire within each person to depend on and feel connected to other people, especially in relationships of love and intimacy.”

Who Am I?

Visualizing what I needed, changed my understanding of myself. Before this epiphany, I was unconsciously searching for my needs in other places besides family. And I’m now talking about the family in which I am the mom as well as my extended family. I was striving to fulfill my duty as well as I could. I wasn’t running off on all kinds of other adventures. I was staying home with my family and working to make sure everyone else was happy. But I wasn’t exactly happy. I didn’t consider that my needs should also be met within these relationships. I seemed to inherently know that I desired to belong somewhere. I just hadn’t considered why I wasn’t feeling the amae with my own family.

Spiritual & Physical Nourishment

I learned that love is spiritual nourishment. And just as it is vital for each of us to eat nutritious meals on a daily basis for optimal health, so it is vital for us to be spiritually nourished on a daily basis. And each of us has the power to spiritually nourish someone else through our own words and actions! God is our Father and so he knows that we have these constant needs. He designed the family unit to be the means by which these needs are met. Brothers and sisters, therefore, have the sacred duty and power to love one another. Loving is about treating each other compassionately and empathetically. It’s also about noticing each other’s strengths and cherishing them. Additionally, when one of us makes mistakes and does not do the above duties, which ends up hurting us, we repent, forgive, and try to work it out. We both recommit so the relationship can Re-Functionalize. The goal is to do whatever it takes for the relationship to work as God intended it to work for all of its members. That way everyone experiences amae.

“WE, THE FIRST PRESIDENCY and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that…the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” ~The Family, A Proclamation to the World

Time for Change

After figuring this all out with the guidance of the Holy Ghost, I changed some of my goals. I started investigating why my present family relationships weren’t resulting in amae for me. I looked at myself first. What did I need to change? I didn’t feel bogged down with shame because I hadn’t been doing better prior to learning this. I felt energized and excited that if I implemented the true processes of God in my family I would stop feeling this emptiness, this lack of something, this need to belong. I would be filled in the appropriate way. And I trusted that God’s plan, when implemented would fill me completely. I just had to understand it better.

Knowing the Definitions

When family relationships are dysfunctional it means that one or more of its members are not feeling that sense of belonging because there is a lack of training and motivation to fulfill duties. They don’t feel sufficiently loved, appreciated, accepted, and safe. Neither do they sufficiently love, appreciate, accept, and protect. Functional families are NOT perfect families in which everyone gets along all the time. They are families in which the members have been trained how to repent and forgive in order to recommit and Re-Functionalize when Conflict arises. They are families that know the promised rewards that come with keeping their commitments to one another. Understanding these promised rewards motivated me to realign my goals. When I prayed for help in developing the needed skills, it was given to me. Slowly but surely, I became a better wife, mother, sister, and daughter. I’m still working on it. And it turns out that those skills are the same skills needed to Stand Steadfast in Christ.