By Henry Cloud, Ph.D.
Bonding is the ability to establish an emotional attachment to another person. It’s the ability to relate to another on the deepest lever. When two people have a bond with each other, they share their deepest thoughts, dreams, and feelings with each other with no fear that the other person will reject them.
Bonding is one of the most basic and foundational ideas in life and the universe. It is a basic human need. God created us with a hunger for relationship—for relationship with him and with our fellow people. At our very core we are relational beings.
Without a solid, bonded relationship, the human soul will become mired in psychological and emotional problems. The soul cannot prosper without being connected to others. No matter what characteristics we possess, or what accomplishments we amass, without solid emotional connectedness, without bonding to God and other humans, we will suffer sickness of the soul.
Why is our need for bonding so strong, and why is our failure to bond so disastrous for our well-being?
God is a relational being, and he created a relational universe. At the foundation of every living thing is the idea of relationship. Everything that is alive relates to something else.
When we search the Scriptures to discover the nature of God, we find out something else. “God is love,” writes the apostle John. “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” (I John 4:16). In his essential nature and in all his actions, God is loving. And insofar as we are created in his image, love is foundational to being a person and to being a Christian. Love is the basic identity of God; it is therefore basic to our identity also.
When we understand that the foundation of existence lies in relationship, for it is the way God exists, it begins to make sense why love is the highest ethic.
Relationship, or bonding, then, is at the foundation of God’s nature. Since we are created in his likeness, relationship is our most fundamental need, the very foundation of who we are. Without relationship, without attachment to God and others, we can’t be our true selves. We can’t be truly human.
If we are to grow and thrive, we need to be “rooted and grounded in love.” We are literally to draw from the love of God and others to fuel our transformation and fruit bearing. We cannot imagine putting a plant in a cardboard box in the garage and expect it to blossom. The plant would not make it for very long. To grow, it must have sunlight, water and nutrients.
We sometimes think, however, that we can supply all our needs without other people. We think that, in a state of emotional and spiritual isolation, we can still grow. This grave violation of the basic nature of the universe can cause serious problems.
Our emotional and psychological well-being depends on the status of our heart, and the status of our heart depends on the depth of our bonds with others and God.
If we come into the world learning to attach to others and to trust them, we begin to develop emotionally, physically, and psychologically. We proceed along certain prescribed plans outlined by our Creator. If, however, we do not learn to attach to others, then our growth is stunted, and we may experience problems.
From Changes That Heal by Dr. Henry Cloud; Zondervan, 1990, 1992.
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