“The great gift of family life is to be intimately acquainted with people you might never even introduce yourself to, had life not done it for you” (Kendall Hailey).
INTIMACY IS THE ACT OF TWO PEOPLE MAKING THEMSELVES KNOWN TO ONE ANOTHER IN A VERY DEEP WAY. Sexual intimacy immediately comes to mind, of course, and there is certainly a sense in which that kind of intimacy involves the deepest knowing that is possible between two human beings. But there are other kinds of intimacy that are hardly less important. As Kendall Hailey humorously suggests, there is even an intimacy among extended family members that we should learn to be thankful for.
It’s sad to contemplate the fact that some people never allow themselves to be known intimately by anybody. Even those who are married sometimes fail to make themselves known — genuinely, honestly, and deeply — to their spouses. Rollo May said, “Intimacy requires courage because risk is inescapable. We cannot know at the outset how the relationship will affect us.” Yet if it is fear that keeps us from the generous joys of intimacy, we need to overcome that fear.
Perhaps it should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: we shouldn’t be intimate with just anybody and everybody. Historically, the major codes of morality in the world have always indicated that our sexual intimacy should be limited to one person. But even with the intimacy of close friendship, we shouldn’t give that private gift to any but a few, and those few should be chosen with great wisdom.
A healthy human life requires some intimacy and also some aloneness. Depending on our personalities, some of us need more of one than the other, but to some extent we all need a balance between making our personal selves known to others and keeping some distance between ourselves and others. On some other day, you may need a reminder of the healthfulness of independence, but today, let’s be reminded of the goodness of intimacy. Though it requires a courage that sometimes seems beyond us, intimacy — with a few individuals, carefully chosen — is one of life’s great privileges. Don’t miss it.
“Our daily existence requires both closeness and distance, the wholeness of self, the wholeness of intimacy” (Judith Viorst).