Why is “Family” so Important?

Why is “Family” so Important?

Popular opinion is that if you don’t grow up “knowing” something, then you don’t miss it… and what you did grow up “knowing” is what you tend to gravitate towards even if you didn’t like it because it is familiar to you.  For some of us, what we knew growing up was so unpleasant that we found ourselves pulled to the other end of the spectrum in an attempt to avoid anything that resembled the place we came from.  For others, what we knew growing up was so idyllic in our minds that we’d do anything and everything to replicate it… or at least our perception of what it was.

It’s human nature to want to fit in… to belong… to experience closeness with others.  Not only do we want to belong to a group, but we also want to believe we are special, important, and a valued part of that group.  Being “connected” makes us feel good about ourselves, helps to pull us through tough times, and gives meaning to our lives.  There is strength in numbers, and being connected to a social support system helps us to build immunities against outside forces that can hurt us.

These connections also guide and shape our behavior and our choices in life because they provide a safe, comfortable, and predictable “home” within which to live.  When we are a part of something larger than ourselves – a family, a school, a sports team, a church, a neighborhood community, online support group, Facebook, etc. – we’re better able to satisfy our basic needs of wanting to belong, be valued, and be understood.

In my ideal mind, families provide a sense of belonging and connection that no other group can match.  Families are about caring, loving, accepting, and providing long-term commitment to each other.  That’s not to say that families don’t fight or have disagreements, because they do, even in my ideal mind… but they use those experiences as a way to grow and learn more about each other.  I firmly believe that when a family decides to be deliberate in their purpose – to be strong, joyful, and caring – they become a safe port for us to navigate to when life gets stormy… and trust me, life gets stormy.

I didn’t grow up with a family that was deliberate in their purpose… it was sort of a fend for yourself environment at best.  Even after I was removed from my biological family unit and placed into foster care, I maintained a weariness that I approached each relationship with that inevitably tainted it.  I still needed to belong… wanted to belong…but I never could find a place where I felt being me was good enough… and trust me, I searched in all kinds of places for something or someone who would fill that void… which more often than not, only left me feeling even less connected and more ashamed of the depths to which I was willing to sink in order to find it.

Now, at 36 years old, I know that it’s important to provide a deliberate sense of family for my children AND to make them feel as if they are an important, contributing part of our unit.  If I don’t, they will look for “surrogate” family groups outside of the home.  Maybe they would be luckier than I was, but I don’t want to chance it.  For years – pretty much my entire 20s – I was adrift… floating aimlessly… never fully trusting, but always seeking something more.

No matter how old we get, we never outgrow the need to belong, to feel needed, or to be important in someone else’s life.  We never stop craving hugs, words of praise, or other forms of appreciation (whatever your “love language” might be).  I want my family to be that safe place for me, for my husband, for my children.  I want it because I need it.  I want it because I love them, and I want them to know that love, feel that love, and never doubt that love even though there will be times of conflict ( Lord, give me strength come their teenage years), disappointment (in their choices and mine), and some serious eye rolling.

Why is family important to you?

Jessica

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3 Responses to “Why is “Family” so Important?”
  1. lena says:

    Family is the most important community in one’s life. It is what we call home, a sense of belonging, a sense of being needed. You can not get more acceptance anywhere. Family knows you and takes you as you are. That’s what my rose-glasses are showing me. But in reality my family is so messed up that at times I don’t want to belong.

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    Jessica Benzakein Reply:

    Isn’t that the truth – I come from a family that I don’t necessarily want to belong to and certainly don’t want to further their ideas of what the family unit should be. But that’s the great thing – families come in all shapes and sizes (actually that’s the topic of one of my saved drafts). Sometimes we are born into a great family. Sometimes, we have to go out and make one. But in either case, it’s not accidental. Great families (naturally forming or man-made) are deliberate in their purpose and while it took me a long time to realize it, I’ve come to believe that we can change our stars, change our legacy, change what we consider our family unit (and sometimes that means distancing ourselves from the one we were born into).

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  2. Tommy says:

    Excellent article, I will take note. Many thanks for the story!

    [Reply]

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