This is part one of a two-part talk Alex Cameron gave to one of our Leadership Development Cohorts in March 2022.
There are two ideas that I think are simply foundational for our sense of identity—a “sense of being” and a “sense of well-being.” (“Sense of well-being” is super important, but we’re going to talk about “sense of being” here.)
A “sense of being” is an internal conviction—It is good that I exist.
We live in a culture (and sometimes even in churches) that are very good at “doing,” but not very good at “being.” Doing is good! But, we have to be before we can do, and that’s as true developmentally as it is metaphysically.
I’m reminded of Genesis, when God creates. Each day he finishes and he says, “It’s good.” He says it over and over. Then, when he creates humanity, he says, “It’s very good.”
Notice, these things were only just created. They haven’t done anything yet. They’re just being is good, prior to anything they do. (This isn’t to dismiss, of course, the very real problem with human sin and brokenness. But it’s worth pointing out that sin isn’t being. Sin is broken-being, distorted-being.)
(Also, this talk isn’t about a “sense of well-being,” but it could be helpful to distinguish it here. A sense of being is the conviction—that I am, is good; a sense of well-being is the conviction—what I am, is good. A sense of well-being is going to include our bodies, and our gifts, and our skills, and our vocations, and our accomplishments.)
You’ve seen “sense of being” develop time and time again, with babies. People hold the baby. The baby is, say, twelve to eighteen inches from their face. They’re smiling, they’re beaming! “Ooh! It’s so good to see you!”
The baby just soaks that up. It’s not a logical thing. It’s intuitive. It’s gut-level. They’re not thinking the words, even if they could. But they’re staring up at the source of their being, seeing total delight radiating down on them, and—without the words—they hear “Someone is really glad that I’m here.” It’s good that I exist.
Historically, that sense of being is developed primarily from our mothers (from fathers or mother-substitutes too, to be sure, to a lesser extent). Before the advent of baby-formula, mothers nursed, and there was a lot of that twelve-to-eighteen inch time, soaking up it’s good that I exist. “Clearly it’s fantastic that I’m here, because people are really excited about it.”
It’s one of the reasons I think there’s so much biblical emphasis on the face of God. “Lift up the light of your countenance upon us” and so on. There’s a transition of love, of identity and goodness, of delight that flows from the parent into the child and the child just absorbs it. It’s really important, developmentally.
And again, like with Creation, it’s got nothing to do with what the child does. That comes later. They’re not contributing anything, at this point. They’re sleeping, crying, eating, and going to the bathroom. They’re just existing. It’s their existing, their being, that’s being affirmed. It’s their being that’s being delighted in.
And, when that sense of being is well formed, it carries us into a healthy adulthood. Any of us could say, “It’s good that I exist.” Anybody could say the words. That’s different from the conviction itself. Do we walk through life with an conviction, it’s good that I exist.
It’s very difficult for people to establish boundaries, or address addictions, or begin to deal with anything else, when what’s going on in their head is I’m not sure it’s good that I exist.
A sense of being is, simply, foundational to our development and to our sense of identity.