God created us to be in healthy and happy relationships. On the most basic, human level He made us with a hunger to be known and to know others. Each and everyone of us to some degree longs to share our hearts with others. We desire someone or someones who want to know us emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Then, after they learn about us we long for the deepest of relationships – an unconditionally loving relationship with someone who knows us well and still loves us.
Sometimes we become too focused on our selfish desire of being known. As wonderful as it is when someone wants to know us, there can be something deeper if we dare to take the next step. The satisfaction for the hunger we feel when relationship connection comes to full fruition and we experience a desire to learn about someone else. Sharing about ourselves opens the door to building an intimacy that can bring about a wonderful sense of joy in our lives. But until we explore the depth of color that can be brought into our lives through knowing another’s heart, we will never experience the profound intimacy that God has designed for us to enjoy.
Many people miss the experience of deep intimacy in relationships for many different reasons. Sometimes they are afraid to let down the wall that protects their heart. When we have been hurt in the past, the wall of protection is often times deep, with the gate locked tight so as not to let anyone inside. As a result, we only let people get “so” close before we push them back and slam shut the gate. It is as if the risk of hurt is too great. We cannot allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
I’ve personally experienced a sense of this impenetrable wall of protection around my heart. I was in a 19 year marriage that was often time filled with emotional (and sometimes physical) abuse. It taught me how a relationship that should have been filled with trust and passion was sometimes dangerous and volatile. After my divorce, it was a number of years before I believed it to be safe for me to venture out into the world of personal relationships again. (More on this topic at a later date.) I had to relearn how to trust myself before I could trust another person. It was a journey of deliberate and determined direction for I knew that an honest depth of relationship couldn’t be achieved until I was willing to risk my heart once again.
Another potential barrier to building relationships is when we become too ‘self-absorbed.’ Sometimes, we are so consumed with what we can take from a relationship, that we loose sight of the necessity of giving of ourselves. There are many people who have narcissistic tendencies in their personalities and feel as if their love of self is effort enough in building a relationship. What they have to offer is the ultimate prize for any potential partner.
Have you ever known anyone who lived relationships in this fashion? They are quite turned into themselves and have a difficult time relating to anyone on a genuine and honest level. They can also asume the posture that other people are nothing more than a conquest – something to be attained. They can’t really experience any level of empathy or regard. To do so is almost a threatening compromise of their needs. There is also a lack of desire to know someone else, with the exception of gaining information that will make the conquest easier – almost a manipulation of sorts. These people, too have a wall built around their heart for protection. But in addition, there is a profound need to own someone rather than to know someone.
There is also the type of person that feels so incredibly wounded and damaged that they believe that they bring nothing to the table of relationship. These people almost take a ‘victim’ posture in all relationships and as a result, their walls of protection come crashing down around their hearts only to be built up rapidly once again. These people believe that life happens to them, rather than just happens. They are victims of all of life and really are just sitting there waiting for the next shoe to drop. While they do hunger for relationships, they do not trust themselves in the relationship. They will crumble at the first sign of conflict – for conflict means that they will soon be victimized once again.
I worked with a young woman who lived her life as a victim. She forever was on the lookout for her Prince Charming to come and save her. But when he never showed up, she would revel in the fact that she was incredibly unlucky. If she weren’t so broken, she would be able to find the man of her dreams and then her life would be wonderful and complete. She was completely void of self-power and she believed she needed to be rescued. She could never embrace the idea that rescuing “Prince Charmings” don’t exist. No one else can save her from herself. As a result, Mr. Perfect never arrived for her – because he didnt’ exist. She remained stuck without a healthy relationship because she wouldn’t take responsibility for her own happiness and personal growth.
As we move forward in our discussion about relationships, we will explore the different roles people play in the dance of healthy relationships. All of us have a posture we present when approaching a relationship table. We will need to spend some time examining how we approach the table of relationships and if this approach is effective in building what our heart ultimately desires – to be known and to know!