The Opposite of Loneliness
If there’s an epidemic in our culture, it’s loneliness. Especially among men. Take our built-in weaknesses in relational skills, add the demands of our work, season it with a helping of isolation-enhancing technology, throw in a couple of kids' sports teams, and you’ve got a recipe for loneliness.
When I heard my friend Pete’s quote, I knew it had to come from someone else because it was too good:
The opposite of loneliness isn’t togetherness...it’s intimacy.
And it’s true.
We’re together with people all of the time. But how often are we intimate?
Before I go on, recognize that intimacy is what makes marriage work. But it’s also what bonds true friends.
Wanna do a scary exercise? Ask yourself these questions and then write down the names of all of the friends that come to mind:
-Who knows you so well that they can tell something’s wrong before you say anything?
-Who misses you...knows where you’ve gone when you’re not around?
-Who knows your birthday? (And would know it without their computer reminding them?)
-Who knows where you were born?
-Who knows your story--your WHOLE story--and loves you anyway?
My list was short. Very short.
Intimacy isn’t easy to obtain. You can’t buy it. You don’t automatically get it by taking your wife away for a weekend or by playing golf with your buddy every Saturday. In marriage, you can turn on the charm, focus on your wife, listen to her, give nonsexual touches, and make her feel very, very loved. And still feel alone.
Because intimacy is two-way. It happens when you love and when you’re loved, when you listen and when you’re listened to. We crave being accepted and we’re dying to be understood.
Intimacy happens when both people disclose and express their feelings and their needs.
The biggest roadblock to intimacy is inadequate self-disclosure. We struggle being open with our spouse and with our closest friends. We’re so afraid of what they’ll think of us that we keep our stuff bottled up. Somehow we’ve missed the fact that we’re more loved in our humble need than in our prideful self-sufficiency.
It’s easy to be intimate with God. He’s safe. He loves us unconditionally. He’s forgiven us in advance for our screw-ups, and He’ll listen to us without laughing, rolling His eyes, or reminding of us of the last time we brought something up. He won’t make us feel stupid for feeling the way we feel.
He’ll just listen. Understand. We know He loves us--that’s not on the table.
But we need spouses and friends we can be intimate with, too. As usual, we see how God wants us to relate to each other in the way He relates to us.
What to do:
Step 1: Make sure you’re the kind of intimate friend that God is to you. Have you forgiven in advance? Will you listen and never laugh, judge, criticize or make your spouse or friend feel stupid? Will you understand and leave it at that?
Step 2: Tell your spouse and your close friend(s) what you need. Will you tell them that you need a friend who will listen but not laugh, judge, criticize, or make you feel stupid? Ask them to be that for you.
Old adage: If you want to have a friend, you have to be one.
New adage: If you want to have a friend, you have tell the people you love what you need.
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