The question that’s been on my heart and mind lately is this: When does familiarity breed intimacy?
In my last post, I expressed my disagreement with the common saying, “familiarity breeds contempt.” and how to watch for the true roots of contempt in our relationships. In this post, we’ll discuss how familiarity can actually breed intimacy and bring us closer in our relationships.
Intimacy ensues when we accurately access the fair market value of an individual. When we assign the proper weight and value to a relationship, we grow in thankfulness and desire more of their time. When people say, “Cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me,” they are actually declaring that they raised the value of the relationships around them to their proper place. God has proclaimed that we have great worth because we have been made in His image (Genesis 1:26). The value we possess as individuals isn’t something that will change with behavior. Familiarity breeds intimacy when we value the people around us as God does.
Intimacy develops as we shift our focus. Reality as our sinful nature dictates is self-oriented. When we live with a focus on others, lives are changed. When the fruit of a selfless life is visible in the lives of others, we begin by a secret law of the soul to feel and draw closer to them. When we live for others, the possibility for connection will raise because we have set our hearts not only on what God desires, but also what is best for them. Paul held up Timothy as a fantastic example of thinking of others above himself (Philippians 2:20). My guess is that Timothy was a person that people enjoyed being around. If familiarity is going to breed intimacy, we must shift the dominant pronoun of our hearts and minds from “me,” to “you.” Is it possible that the contemptuous and the self-focused haven’t shifted their pronoun yet?
Intimacy flourishes where forgiveness abounds. Hurt is inevitable–reconciliation is optional. Bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness have a corrosive impact on relationships. I recently spoke with a woman who had been married for over 50 years. She tenderly rubbed her husband’s shoulder and she said, “I love him more and more each year.” Shocked, I asked her with great curiosity, “What is the secret of a love that grows over a lifetime?” With a twinkle in her eye she said, “Forgiveness. Relationships are tough, they take a lot of work, but, they get better over time if we learn to forgive.” It is a blessing to all involved when we courageously take up Jesus’ challenge to forgive others as we have been forgiven (Matthew 6:12). When we take steps to forgive others, reconciliation breaks the chains of contempt that were forming. Familiarity breeds intimacy when forgiveness reigns.
Intimacy intensifies as fun and laughter increase. Asking, “how much are we laughing together?” serves as a great barometer for the health of a relationship. Enjoying being together, laughing, and investing time, effort and money in creating moments of play and enjoyment is a beautiful gift. Enjoyment is the glue that creates a thirst of desire for another. Whether it is God, our spouse, or a friend, the amount we enjoy being with someone will impact how much time we spend with them. When we play together, the familiar maintains a special quality that won’t die away.
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “No problem. That’s easy! I’ll just start placing a higher value on the relationships around me, start focusing on others and denying myself, forgive past hurts and start laughing more in my relationships.”
This is not only difficult, it will be impossible unless we experience what Jesus modeled in His relationship with the Father. For some reason, even though Jesus knew everything there is to know about the Father, He woke up early in the morning to spend time with Him (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35, 6:46; Luke 5:16).
On one occasion, Jesus spent an entire night in the Father’s presence (Luke 6:12). Could it be that Jesus discovered that the experience of the peace, joy, rest, and love experienced with the Father was worth the missed sleep? If our familiarity with God isn’t breeding a satisfying intimacy, there may be a problem.
Could it be that we have forgotten that God values us enough to send His Son for us, focused on us enough to love us as our soul craves, forgave us enough to die for us and has brought us a joy beyond the walls of this world? Knowing and experiencing this familiarity will breed a lasting intimacy with God and with those around us!