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Fear of Intimacy

DSC_0553-Jeff_Robinett_blog_portraitWhen Kristi and I go out for dinner, we often see people focused on electronic devices and ignoring the people sitting with them. I’m not sure if this obsession is a result of existing poor relationships…or if it’s the cause of them. But one thing is certain: as a society, we fear intimacy more than past generations. We see it in our families…our neighborhoods…and even our churches.

Intimacy occurs when you share a close bond with someone. It makes you feel like you belong. It isn’t sex, although it should be a part of sex. True intimacy is so much more. An intimate bond is emotional and mental, and may be physical. You have a sense of connection and enjoy sharing thoughts and feelings on a deep level. 

Fear of intimacy occurs when you refuse…or can’t find it within yourself…to “open up.” This fear prevents you from forming real friendships. Consequently, your relationships are shallow, even fake.

How can you tell if you fear intimacy? Look for these telltale signs:

Distant, or “stand-offish”, behavior

Let’s say someone is trying to establish a relationship…but you draw back. This forms a relational gap, the kind that developed between Adam and God.

Adam and God weren’t always at odds with each other. In the beginning they shared an intimate friendship. God would walk with Adam as they talked about the day. But Adam (and Eve) broke the trust they shared with God by doing the one thing they were told not to do.

Fear was a new thing for Adam. He didn’t know how to handle it. But he was certain he didn’t want to tell God. Here’s how it played out…

The LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."

– Genesis 3:9-10 (NIV)

Afraid of getting close to God, Adam hid. He became distant. Fear of intimacy still does that!

Defensive behavior

Reluctance to accept blame is another good sign that you’re struggling with intimacy.

People who fear intimate relationships think they must be perfect for people to like them. Weirdly enough, this quest for perfection is one of the biggest mistakes they can make!

After Adam admitted what had happened to God, he immediately blamed Eve:

The man said, "The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

– Genesis 3:12-13 (NIV)

Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the snake. The snake didn’t have a leg to stand on. :-)

Fortunately, it’s possible to overcome the fear of intimacy and develop deep, rich, real relationships! Here’s how…

Avoid premature intimacy.

Have you ever met a person that spilled their innermost thoughts and experiences right after you met them? Talk about awkward!

When you want to swim in the relationship pool, don’t jump off the high dive! Wade in slowly. You can’t conquer your fear by revealing your deepest secrets with strangers. An important part of developing intimate relationships is sharing the proper information at the right time.

I love what King Solomon said to his lover in the Song of Solomon:

"I want you to promise…not to awaken love until the time is right."

– Song of Solomon 8:4 (NLT)

I know this was written by a man courting a woman for marriage, but the principle works in all types of relationships. You can’t rush true intimacy. It needs to grow over time.

Take prayerful risks in relationships.

Pray about your relationships! Not everyone will…or should…become your intimate friend.

I think the story about Ananias (a Christian), and Saul (a killer of Christians), is a great example. Ananias was praying when God told him to find Saul and become his friend!

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me…

– Acts 9:17 (NIV)

From a human perspective, Ananias took a big risk when he looked for Saul. But God had arranged this encounter, so everything turned out fine!

Finally, develop spiritual intimacy with Jesus.

A deep and authentic bond with Jesus will translate into deep and authentic bonds with people. That’s how God designed us. The Bible says,

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

– Romans 15:7 (NIV)

Experiencing acceptance from Jesus will help you be authentic with others. It will help you to feel secure enough to open up when you might otherwise shut down.

Intimacy is something we all desire. We want to belong. Putting these things into practice will help you develop the kind of close relationships God wants you to have.

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