Notice the intimate, relational nature of Jesus’ farewell address to his disciples in John’s Gospel (John 14-17). Three words stand out: abide, believe, and love. Be with me, stay with me, believe in me, love me and love others as I love you. This foundational relationship shapes our identity, our way of being, and all our actions.
We all need intimate, caring relationships to thrive and grow as people. Child psychologists have discovered that children with a secure attachment to a primary caregiver are more independent and able to explore their world. When the caregiver leaves the room, the child becomes sad and is visibly excited when the caregiver returns.
In contrast, children with an anxious/resistant attachment to their primary caregiver cry more and are less willing to explore. When the caregiver leaves the room the also become upset but may resist physical contact, as a form of “punishment” when the caregiver returns. Other children, with anxious/avoidant attachment show no preference between a caregiver and a stranger.
Children who grow up in an environment where their need for care is ignored, disparaged, or outright rejected live in a constant state of anxiety, which manifests itself in various debilitating ways later in life. As adults, they may attempt to be autonomous and resist the warmth and affection of others. They often crack under stress, exhibit violent behavior, and experience a high rate of depression.
We need to accordingly reconsider some of our prevailing psychology and social theory. According to Jeremy Rifkin, “The conventional notion of evolution, with the emphasis on the competitive struggle to secure resources and reproduce offspring, is being tempered . . . with new findings suggesting that the survival of the fittest may be as much about pro-social behavior and cooperation as physical brawn and competition” (The Empathic Civilization, 81).
This fits with the kind of intimate, relational community Jesus created with his disciples. We abide (become attached), as we’re loved—we love in turn, and we act (explore and create in our world). It’s a way of being.