But it is only after a reasonable sense of identity has been established that real intimacy with… any other person…is possible…. The youth who is not sure of his [or her] identity shies away from interpersonal intimacy,…[and] may…isolate himself and find, at best, highly stereotyped and formal interpersonal relations (formal in the sense of lacking in spontaneity, warmth, and real exchange of fellowship); but the surer he becomes of himself, the more he seeks [intimacy] in the form of friendship…leadership, love and inspiration” (Erik Erikson, Identity and the Life Cycle, p. 101).
I remember it was the Summer of 1989… I was 26 and enjoying my first conference out of town with WGA folks. It was a week long seminar filled with various speakers and workshops to attend. After many long, satisfying yet exhausting days we finally had time off to do some actual sight-seeing. And sadly in light of that, my anxiety began to spike (again) as I faced an old, poking fear. In preparation for the trip, I kept picturing myself alone, left behind while all the others in our party were off enjoying themselves exploring our destination city. It wasn’t a surprise this reoccurring fear re-surfaced. I had felt that kind of rejection of being ”left out” many times growing up. This insecurity always turned me into the exact kind of person I did NOT want to be—clingy, hyper-vigilant, unconfident and mostly annoying.
Having made sure I wasn’t left behind on our excursion to Sea World, my fear not only ebbed away but was completely transformed. Some from our group spontaneously connected with a few other guys attending the conference and it turned into a whole day thing. We walked around Sea World, chatted over dinner and hung out late into the evening. We compared stories, laughed a lot and the strong sense of belonging and acceptance went deep and evaporated away the insecurity. We continued to meet over the last few days of the conference and of course promised to “write often” at our sad farewell, boarding the flight home (which of course never happened). Arriving back in Denver, I went to visit my parents, still enthusiastically talking about the trip. My dad unexpectedly said (and it’s why I remember this story so vividly)—“You seem so confident, self-assured…why you even look taller!?”
Loving Myself AND Others
Hmm, the word “taller” has really never been associated with me, being a whopping 5’4, but isn’t it amazing what real connection, acceptance and a sense of belonging can do to a person? In my past two blogs (Part 1& Part 2) I’ve been discussing loving God, ourselves and others well. In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus replies to the question of which is the greatest commandment in the law. He states “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The above quote from Dr. Erik Erikson rings very true. I shared in my past articles how broken and wounded I was growing up and how it left me not only confused about who I was but genuinely lacking any identity. As God began to heal the wounds in my life and I found my identity more and more in Him, I moved closer to the person He is creating me to be. Growing in the assurance of who I am over time, made me less of the clingy, insecure and hyper vigilant person I displayed at the conference. In turn, I was able to pursue relationships for the pleasure of intimacy, rather than simply desperation. Many things bloomed in me out of that self care and love—long lasting friendships, community and the leadership roles I’ve taken on at Where Grace Abounds.
Loving Others and Self Inventory
Loving ourselves and others really go hand in hand. When we have a healthy sense of boundaries and love, sex and intimacy take their proper places we’re caring for ourselves and others well. Practicing forgiveness as Jesus instructs helps keep the community and the relationships we need intact. Look through the inventory below. Is there a category or 2 or 3 items that resonate currently, which God might have you prayerfully press into this season?
Healthy Boundaries—Where I end and you begin
Is it OK that I exist on the planet?
How have I been appropriately sharing my thoughts, opinions and preferences lately?
How have I been appropriately “standing up” for myself lately?
Is it OK to say “no”?
Are my boundaries too low and I get stepped on?
Are my boundaries too high and I don’t let anyone in?
Disentangling Love, Sex and Intimacy
Am I worthy of love?—in what ways am I living that out?
Do I have a capacity to give and receive love?
Am I afraid/uncomfortable/unaware of how to give and receive love?
Has sex taken its proper place in my life? (less addictive, destructive, desperate).
How am I deepening the intimacy in all of my relationships?
Am I finding true ways of connecting rather than seeking “false intimacy”?
Restored Relationships (God, Family, Friends, Self)—Forgiveness
Am I harboring anger or bitterness at anyone in particular currently?
Can I work through conflict constructively?
Can I forgive myself, others and God?
Am I harder on myself than others?
Support Network of Relationships
Do I have a network of relationships that can offer support when I need it?
Do I have a wide range of different kinds of relationships (acquaintances, buddies, trusted friends)?
Am I connected with a community where I am known consistently?
Do I have people in my life that can reflect to me who I truly am?
Are there people in my life who can offer guidance or counsel?
Coming Full Circle
Loving God, ourselves and others seem interconnected and contingent upon each other. As I can draw nearer to the God who created me, I know myself more and more. His version of myself and not the false narrative, I listened to a good portion of my life. It would also seem if I know and care for myself well—I might come out of my little personal kingdom and want to know and care for others better. God is all in, around and through this process coming full circle back to Him—so I need to keep seeking the Lover of our souls and world. Loving God with all my heart, soul and mind (at least trying to daily). Let’s talk more about that in my next blog.
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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