“Why are we doing this?”
“What does this have to do with anything?”
“It doesn’t matter how well I do this because it’s not important.”
Have you heard these questions and statements and more from your children? They often indicate confusion about purpose, our fourth core need.
Children with healthy security have trustworthy people speaking into their lives. They will be more optimistic and realistic about their present and future purpose. Children who have a positive and complete identity will believe there’s much they can do. Therefore, they’ll believe they’re alive on purpose and they’ll be more successful as they look to achieve it. Children with healthy belonging are in good relationships and have people to serve and influence. These people will help them believe in their purpose and reasons to keep living even when the days are dark.
Our model of five core needs works in both directions. (As I introduce this concept today, you might notice there are arrows on both ends of the lines outside the pyramid.) Not only do the first three needs influence purpose, but purpose actually influences those needs, as well. For instance, children who begin to discover they were created on purpose with purpose will often choose to spend time with positive people who appreciate their purpose and don’t want to diminish their identity. These people who know their purpose will also value themselves enough that they want trustworthy people in their lives. And purpose will often cause a desire for greater character which means they become more trustworthy than they may have been. As a result, their security is further strengthened.
Just like our first three core needs influence the ones beyond them, purpose is significant because it influences the next one, competence. (I’m looking forward to posting about competence next Monday.) Without reasons to live and a knowledge of why we are alive, children don’t need to do anything well. I often find that qualities like apathy, laziness, impatience, and a lack of perseverance are rooted in a lack of purpose.
Purpose: Why am I alive?
So what does it take for children to believe they have purpose? They need hope for today and hope for tomorrow. They need to believe they can speak into the brokenness that they’ve personally experienced or observed on the World Wide Web and in the community in which they live.
The most profound and authentic hope of course is the hope they can place in God. To believe that He is not surprised by anything and that His power is still evident in the world is a huge comfort. Again, it matters when they place their security, identity, and belonging in God. When they do, it’s more likely they’ll find their purpose in God, too.
When they have people to serve and choose to serve them, they can discover their purpose. Putting others first and blessing them is a beautiful way they can glorify God, which is why He created them (Isaiah 43:7). When parents serve with their children, as I discuss in Screens and Teens, it gives us much to talk about. We can ask about the feelings they had, the skills they used, and whether they would like to have similar experiences again and why or why not. Through service, they can discover how much good they can do even if they don’t have relevant experiences and lots of skills yet. This in turn increases their hope.
A third thing we can provide that increases purpose is direction. I often teach that many of our young people today are multi-passionate and very skilled. What looks like apathy, as some sit around and do nothing, can actually be paralysis due to being overwhelmed by options. They hesitate investing in one hobby, school club, career, and the like because that means they can’t do something else.
Providing direction may be one of the most profound ways that identity facilitates purpose. When you observe carefully and speak specific, positive truth over your children, you help them find out how their combination of interests and abilities can work together to give them purpose. Your information helps them choose wisely.
Do you know children and adults who appear to be unsure of why they’re alive? What have I written here that you’ll think more about so you can help them? What might you talk with them about first? Do you need to better establish their security, identity, and or belonging? Or are those three healthy and they need hope, service experiences, and direction so they can believe in their purpose? Which of those might you start with? What kind of conversations can you have?
A lack of healthy purpose is a leading cause of the school dropout rate, unhealthy decisions, dysfunction, and suicide. Thank you for reading this and for taking it seriously.
[callout]All children and adults have been created by God with five core needs that must be met. In addition to reading my many blogs on this topic, my book, Finding Authentic Hope and Wholeness, explains them in detail.[/callout]