The Need To Belong


Who do you belong with?

When my new grandson, Jack, was born, he didn’t cry…he howled. I’m talking serious decibel levels. He made it clear in no uncertain terms that he did not want to be carried naked from his mother’s loving arms to a bed of his own to be weighed, measured, and tested. He didn’t need words to express his immense displeasure at having drops put in his eyes and being printed. The kid wailed like he was being tortured.

BUT…everything changed when he was returned to his Momma. The reassurance of her presence, the soft sound of her voice and heartbeat, the security of being nestled in her arms, the feel of her skin and comfort of her milk…they changed everything. She was his and somehow, alive no more than mere minutes, he knew that. She belonged with him and he with her.

We come into this world literally tethered to another person, but the cutting of the umbilical cord does nothing to remove our fundamental need to be connected to someone else. Psychologists refer to this as our need to belong.


I love how the Cambridge Dictionary defines “belong:”

belong: to fit in a specified place or environment

Cambridge sites synonyms like attachment, acceptance, closeness, to be suited to, have a rightful place, have a home.

Just like Baby Jack, we all long for people and places where we fit. Where we feel at home.  We long to belong.


Psychologists say our need to belong is instinctual, meaning we come into this world with this need. Strongly motivational, it moves us to establish meaningful and lasting relationships.

But I think our need goes even deeper. The God who handmade even our inward parts (Psalm 139) has Himself always lived in community. When He was about to breathe life into the first human, He said to His Trinity partners, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26, italics mine). God lives in community and wired us to do likewise. We were made to belong.

Well known for their research on the human need for belongingness, social psychologists Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary report that a lack of belonging leads to everything from decreased levels of health and happiness to higher levels of mental and physical illness – even to behavioral problems ranging anywhere from traffic accidents to criminality and suicide. (Psychology Today)

“When we belong, we feel cared for and valued. We have someone to turn to for support when life becomes difficult. A link exists between a positive sense of belonging and our ability to function in the world around us. Stronger social relationships provide us with a greater capacity to manage stress and anxiety, making them essential to our health and happiness.” (

So how do we meet this inborn need of ours?


Interpreting research from Baumeister and Leary, professor Aaron Ben-Zeev, Ph.D. says, “Satisfying this need requires (a) frequent, positive interactions with the same individuals and (b) engaging in these interactions within a framework of long-term, stable care and concern.” (Psychology Today)

What I hear when I read those words is that true belonging doesn’t come from paying membership dues to a club, signing up for a team, or even by formally joining a church. It takes time and effort. It takes more than looking to someone else to make me feel I belong.

As Christ followers, we do have a very real advantage here. When we are truly leaning into our relationship with God, when we our allowing Him to be all He longs to be in our lives and believing who He says we are in Him, then we are free to genuinely care for others and to embrace their care in return.

Over the course of my life, I’ve belonged (or found my fit) with a variety of groups and individuals, both formally and informally. And honestly, I’ve also experienced some hard seasons where I didn’t feel I fit anywhere with people. I’ve noticed that when I’ve felt most attached and at home with others is when I’m nurturing my relationship with God and continuing to show up for the significant people in my life – when I have indeed been actively engaged in frequent, positive interactions with some significant someone(s) where there is a give and take of mutual care and concern.

Again, I ask, who do you belong with? And might I add, who belongs with you?

Life is too messy to maneuver it totally unattached and alone. And, it goes against the very plan of God for our lives to even try. Let’s work with our God-given wiring and faithfully, continually reach out to others. Let’s listen well, encourage often, empathize when needed, strongly support, and practically love. Let’s let others in on the longings of our heart, our struggles, dreams, and joys.

We all need to belong, so let’s help one another find our fit. If you’re part of our Council Road Women’s ministry, please do take this survey to help find your fit with us!

References: Baumeister R.F, and Leary M.R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497-529.


Meet the Author!

Bible teacher, author, inspirational speaker and disciple-maker, Vickey Banks is passionate about helping women connect the dots between God’s Word and their everyday lives. She loves serving as Women’s Ministry Director at Council Road, celebrating her people, playing with her puppy and getting lost in a good story.