During my first two years of college, I puked my problems all over anyone who would listen. Unafraid of sharing my struggles and deep details of my life, I basically introduced myself with a “Hi, my name is Caitlin. Let me tell you all about my problems.” For better and for worse, I lived unfiltered with almost everyone.
Eighteen and nineteen year old Caitlin trusted everyone with intimate parts of her life, and even shared stories that involved other people. It was a messy way of living. Eventually, wiser friends started speaking into my habits, and encouraging me to find a few trusted friends to share the full story with. Cultivating a group of friends, some who are close with each other and others who are not, has been one of the best things I ever did.
Isn’t it good to be real and honest though?
The short answer is yes. We should be authentic with all people. Making eye contact while you’re in the check-out lane at Target to the cashier is kind. Asking genuine questions and listening for the response to your friends at the coffee cart at church is good. Sending thank you notes to your children’s teachers is a way to encourage them.
In fact, more than being authentic, we should be transparent with most people. Being honest with your co-workers and boss about your workload is wise. Sharing with your child’s teacher about some of the difficult behaviors you’re seeing at home allows the teacher to better meet your child’s needs. Opening up about what material needs your family has during a difficult seasons allows others to help.
But, intimacy with a few people is how we are truly able to be known.
It would be easy for me to sit here and tell you the people I think you should be known by — your church small group, your college friends, your neighbors — based on what I’ve seen work for me or for people who I’m close to. It is tempting to even give you a magic number or to tell you to find these people and never let them go, but intimacy isn’t a destination that you arrive at and forget about. Intimacy is a constant battle.
I’ve got a group of four friends who are all in a constant conversation with each other. They know my hopes, dreams and fears. They’re usually the first women I share a prayer request with or who I celebrate with about exciting news. Outside of them, I have several other friends, too, who get the full, unfiltered story, but outside of them… This level of intimacy has taken time to develop. We didn’t walk into deep friendships with one another; it’s taken prioritizing, serving and trusting each other through the good times and the bad times.
I do share vulnerably with others outside of this group, but I don’t go into an interaction expecting to be fully known by someone else. I’m always authentic. I’m usually transparent, but I’m not always intimate.
Is this unkind? I don’t think so, and I don’t think the Bible says so either.
Jesus had twelve friends. Of those twelve friends, there were three who He was closest to.
He interacted with all people authentically; serving them, preaching to them and healing them. He was transparent with most of them. He wanted most people to know who He was. But on his last night on earth, He shared most intimately with his closest friends. He did this believing that if they knew Him, they’d be able to share with others. He was committed to His disciples looking radically different because they knew Him.
The more we look at Jesus’ relationships and study how He interacted with others, we’ll find that He was authentic with all, transparent with some, and intimate with few. In doing so, He sets an example for the rest of us to follow.