God has put holy boundaries around our bodies, sexuality and relationships, so that everyone is built up, encouraged and cared for, instead of diminished, exploited and in pain. Whether or not we experience loving others as completely as we could, the sheer width and breadth of freedom we have can feel scary and daunting. I know personally that most of the time I just flail about in the midst of all my holy liberty. I often wonder and then ask, with such a strong desire to love God and others well, why do I feel so inadequate when it comes to actually putting love into practice? Here are a few questions to ponder as you think about your relationships:
- Are your relationships always “too close, too soon,” or do you never quite seem to make meaningful connections?
- Are you always the one initiating, or is it you that is always running away?
- Is it “my way or the highway,” or are your desires and needs always getting overridden?
- Do you over-communicate and overwhelm others, or are you self-protective, letting no one know you?
- Does your “honesty” often hurt others’ feelings, or do you tend to hide your significant feelings?
- Do you usually take responsibility for the care of others, or do you withdraw at the first sign of someone’s need?
Whenever the topic of intimacy comes up, someone usually asks, “What in the world does intimacy look like?” I think it’s a fair question considering that many of us grew up without being taught or instructed about this important area of life. Intimacy appears to some as a nebulous, vague concept that’s “out there somewhere” and might accidentally happen if they’re lucky. But I was genuinely surprised to learn that there are tangible, measurable components to intimacy and relationship. With the above questions still in mind, let’s also consider whether many of our problems in relationships result from “too much” or “too little” of the components below.
The 7 Components
Risking to initiate instead of being passive, taking responsibility to maintain the relationship and seeking quality time together.
Initiating, listening, communicating and vulnerability are not onesided but shared and reciprocated.
Revealing yourself (thoughts, joys, dreams, fears) to the level that’s appropriate for the relationship. Being honest about your values, boundaries, feelings and flaws.
Empathizing with others, being supportive, encouraging and caring in ways that do not diminish either party.
Basically “walking the talk,” showing dependability and building trust by completing things; working towards closure, resolving conflicts, finalizing arrangements, returning calls, texts and emails.
Not just “showing up” physically, but being emotionally available by listening and being attentive to others (rather than being checked out on your phone or social media).
Relationships need time to build trust. There’s a certain pace to getting to know someone; it shouldn’t happen in a week, but shouldn’t take 10 years either.
If we err on the “too much” or “too little” sides of this list, we have to remember others are also navigating their own ways. Each person and relationship is unique and serves different purposes in our lives; that’s what makes relationship and intimacy so darned complicated. As elusive as intimacy feels sometimes, I hope these components are helpful to provide some structure as you think through your relationships.
Real intimacy respects boundaries without abandoning relationship. It is emotionally available, noticing what is happening in the lives of others. When people are practicing true intimacy, they care for one another by building trust and following through on their commitments. Real intimacy involves talking about joys, dreams and fears and dilemmas – at a level appropriate to the relationship. Real intimacy is honest about positive and negative feelings, and admits flaws and mistakes. In real intimacy, there is care for one another that touches the heart without diminishing either person.
A staff member since June of 1992, Scott is a key player in the WGA discipleship ministry. He plans, organizes, and implements every aspect of the Thursday night support group. In addition to public speaking, counseling group participants and training leaders, Scott maintains personal contact with many group members and it is to Scott’s credit that many group members feel personally welcomed, cared for and loved.
Although he holds a degree in graphic arts, he attributes his ministry qualifications to the “school of hard knocks.” God’s abundant grace continues to be the instrument of growth in his life, and he desires to be firmly grounded in the forgiveness and freedom of relationship with Jesus Christ.
Scott attends a Presbyterian Church.
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