in reflection, relationships

On intimacy and efficiency

“Intimacy is not good for business.  It is inefficient, it lacks ‘glamour.’  If love of God can be reduced to a ritualized hour of worship, if love of another can be reduced to an act of sexual intercourse, then routines are simple and the world can run efficiently … Intimacy is no easy achievement.  There is pain—longing, disappointment and hurt.  But if the costs are considerable, the rewards are magnificent, for in relationship with another and with the God who loves us — we complete the humanity for which we were created.”

from “Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work” by Eugene Peterson

This quote jumped off the page for me this morning as I thought about many of the ways in which I am feeling led to make a difference in the world.  I have been meditating for a while now on what I refer to as the ‘empathy gap’ … the inability to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and at least ‘try’ to walk where they are walking – so that we can better understand their view of the world.

I feel like the empathy gap is growing wider daily as we get more ‘efficient’ with our communications and relationships … it is much easier to compartmentalize other people into groups and ‘boxes’ because it is ‘efficient’ when you are processing as much information as we all do daily … but it is at the cost of empathy. 

Because every moment we spend in ‘broadcast’ mode – is a moment we lose in building intimacy with one person.

The reason the quote jumped off the page for me is because it reminded me of something that I know is very true based on my experience with marriage, parenting, and friendships in general – building real intimacy is hard.  

And when something is hard, if I can find a ‘close second’ to it, I sometimes substitute the ‘close second’ to avoid the deep work it takes to grow in a relationship.

And I can do this without being aware I am doing it.

There is no substitute for putting in the time when it comes to intimacy.  So the more I am ‘rushed’ in life and avoid those quiet or still moments with those I love, the more superficial my relationships become.

Take a moment today and think about the relationships in your life – what is the quality of the intimacy in those relationships?  

And is the empathy gap growing or shrinking?