If you read my vision statement one of my main themes is intimacy and taking risks in our relationships with others. In his excellent book “Living the Truth,” Keith Ablow has this to say:
Love everyone, but trust those connected to truth. While everyone is worthy of your concern and empathy … only those who have recognized the source of their suffering, examined it, and grown from it are trustworthy. This is because putting down one’s shields, looking in the mirror, and facing the early complicated chapters of one’s life story is the only way to feel pain and grow beyond it. People who continue to deny their suffering, insisting all is well with them and always has been, can draw you into highly charged, unresolved dramas recycled from their past. And those unresolved dramas can contaminate any story you try to write with them. How do you recognize those who are trustworthy? Look at how much they rely on shield strategies to get through life. Do they drink excessively, ceaselessly pursue fame or riches, use drugs to get through life, gamble, take inordinate risks, change the topic constantly to avoid addressing anything emotional?
[I would add to this list] Do they rely on excessive religiosity, and spiritualize every situation?] Do they say everything’s ‘great’ for them now, that they have the ‘ideal marriage’ or ‘perfect children’ or ‘wouldn’t change a thing’? Remember, people carrying lots of shields can’t embrace you. They can’t really love you. They’re too busy running from the truth. People quite often are running from truth in the excessive spiritualization of life scenarios. Its another method of avoiding intimacy!!!!
Being open and vulnerable with people involves taking risks. Your honesty may be threatening to them, because it exposes their charade. But having a few authentic relationships is worth the risks!
Again, I quote from Ablow:
Keep this in the front of your mind: whether you are embraced or isolated for living the truth, the price is always lower than the cost of running from that truth. Shared fictions – within families or among friends – are false, temporary comforts. The emotional toll of avoiding reality only gets steeper over time. And the last thing you can afford to lose is your authenticity, yourself. Living the truth will attract those who welcome honesty and will provoke or frighten those who fear it. But sometimes those who are fearful can be inspired to overcome their resistance and put down their own shields when your communication with them is open, understanding, and forgiving.
The Gospel tells us two very important things that are maybe easy to understand, but in life, are almost impossible to apply unless we can break down the walls of religious performance or the walls of shame and sin in our lives. The Gospel says:
We are more sinful and weak than we ever dared to admit and (Complete Insufficiency or Total Depravity of Man, point 1)…
We are more loved and accepted than we ever dared to hope (What drove Jesus to the cross, point 2).
If we don’t deeply understand the sin and brokenness of point 1 then the intimacy of point 2 is never actualized in our relationships. Man needs to get “dirty” and “muddy” in understanding point 1 above!!!!
We will never have intimacy or hunger for Christs’ beauty until we have seen the filth of our own vain efforts to make ourselves beautiful. We need to open the closet doors and expose the dirt and mud we have been hiding. This will point us to how DEEP our need is for a savior and this will allow us to achieve the intimate friendships and a one-flesh union with our spouses.
I have considered in my life what qualities are a part of a connecting, intimate friendship. I have come up with these.
Consistency– People willing to meet with you and allow you to meet with them even in time of a crisis. Good friends will meet you in your time of crisis but forever, intimate friends allow you into their lives in their time crisis as well. The difference is subtle but vast between these two types of friends.
Honesty — Even Jesus was closer to John and James than the rest of the disciples. Be aware of people that are honest about you but not honest about themselves. There are a lot of people who proclaim honesty and vulnerability but discern carefully those you allow into the inner circle!!!
Vulnerability– Surround yourselves with people willing to be naked emotionally and spiritually with you.
Understanding, Affirmation, and Blessing — A friend is continuously blessing you. Can you look into at the caterpillar but see the butterfly. This is deep affirmation. I confirm this part and love you in spite of that part.
Friends that have the above qualities are the friends that you can allow into the deeper parts of your heart and are worth keeping and blessing. Other friendships, as Keith says, “you must have concern or empathy for” but the trustworthy, vulnerable, intimate friends are hard to find and you must test the counsel of people before you find those friends.