>On intimacy

>False sense of intimacy: Facebook, email, Skype. At what point do we say you are intimate even if you have no physical contact?

Tabloid culture: a recent article in Newsweek taunts, "In defense of our Brangelina-loving, Jon and Kate-hating, Tiger-taunting, tawdry tabloid culture." 

One of the hallmarks of intimacy is that I know both the good and the bad about you. We have shared enough time and words together that I know you in a more rounded way. I know you are wonderful with your kids, for example, but that you are very bossy at work. Or I know that you are incredible good listener, but that you are cold to your spouse and cheat on him. I know you have no fear in defending the poor and the orphans, esp. in other countries, but that you also drive this year's model BMW. 

This is intimacy – I come to see that you have many qualities, some good and some bad, some appropriate and some inappropriate, but I continue to have a relationship with you. I will talk with you, I will share with you, I will go to lunch with you, I will invite you over for dinner.

It seems that the foundation stone of all relationships, and certainly of the ones which claim the title "intimate" is trust. By this I mean that a relationship will be more intimate in direct proportion to the amount of trust I have in you. I have to trust that you will not attack me, turn your back on me, betray me, or share my secrets with others. The more I am certain of this the more intimate our relationship. A second critical part is respect. Even if I expected that you would not ever reveal something about me to others, there is a line of behavior that I find unacceptable (we all do). If you behave in a way I find unacceptable I will have to end the relationship. Where is your line? Adultery? Drugs? Theft? Murder? At what point would you have to say that your trust in me has been broken?

The annoying thing is that most of the conversation about intimacy tends to focus on physical intimacy, which, strangely is the least interesting and least important of all levels of intimacy. Frankly, anyone can get naked with anyone else and exchange bodily fluids. This is trivial to the point of boredom, though the porn industry seems to make a killing out of this most unintimate form of exercise. 
Becoming judges: the difficulty with intimacy is that in becoming more intimate with the case (or person) gives you fresh perspectives on the subject matter, and thus, paradoxically allows you to judge them better. Let us not kid ourselves: we all judge, and harshly, each other. From wardrobes to demeanor to word choice we are constantly judging and being judged. Around our dinner table at home at least half of the conversation with the children tend to be a subtle (and not-so-subtle) way of teaching them to police their own behavior better (sit up straight, chew with your mouth closed, don't talk with your mouth full) so that they will not be negatively judged by others – and therefore bring a bad judgment upon us parents by proxy.

The worse judges are the ones who claim not to judge, because there are only two alternatives to not judging: either you are not judging me because you have no interest in intimacy with me ("I do not care about you"), or you are simply unwilling to share the results of your judgment with me – perhaps saving it as juicy gossip (again showing your lack of respect for me). Of the first kind we see our indifference to the atrocities committed in other countries (most of the African continent for a start). But we do not care about them, so we avoid the complicate dance into intimacy with them by simply refusing to judge, to speak clearly and in love against atrocities against injustice and oppression. We also do not care about the poor, and it will be a very cold day in Hell when I stop my SUV to become intimate with a homeless person. 

Of the second kind they tend to be more personal. they are people whom we think superficially that they are open-minded or loving or good listeners. But there is judgment there. At best they agree with you (i.e. pass a positive judgment), at worse they desire the attention or the information which can fulfill some other of their needs. Those who claim to not judge others are the most profound egotists, at a level that would make even Ayn Rand blush. They are in this life for themselves and themselves only. 

So, assuming you want to avoid egoism and callous indifference, assuming you accept the reality that we are all in this together, in one planet, members of one species, responsible for the future health and well-being of all creatures in this planet. Assuming this, what does the Bible recommend us judges to do?


About spaceloom

An urban monk, and an experienced spiritual director with a Masters in Psychology. Married with two children. Want to know me better? Read my thoughts.
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