6 Ingredients to Build Family Intimacy
We all yearn for intimate relationship. We long for the kind of intimacy that allows us to stand before another person without fear of rejection, without feeling shameful about our perceived inadequacies, and without hesitation to give ourselves to another person…to be completely known, deeply loved, and unconditionally accepted. We can learn to nurture that type of intimacy only within the family. One of the first lessons we learn from our family is that intimacy takes effort. We all fall short. We behave in ways that interfere with intimacy and the restoration of intimacy takes work. With that in mind, the deep intimacy we desire begins when we accept personal responsibility for our own actions—actions that interfere with intimacy and actions that enhance intimacy. Here are six actions to help you build deeper intimacy in your family.
· Own Your Own Actions. Admit that your behavior either creates or destroys family intimacy. What you say and do will build deeper intimacy with family members or deepen the chasm between family members. With brutal honesty, assess whether your actions and words lead your family toward greater intimacy or push your family to further separation. Take personal responsibility for your behavior and its impact.
· Acknowledge the Impact of Your Behavior. If your words and actions lead to intimacy, acknowledge the joy you experience in relation to your family. If your words and actions have driven a wedge between family members, confess your wrongs. Humbly admit your fault without making excuses. Express a genuine desire to change your behavior. You might even present a plan to change your behavior and bring intimacy back to your family relationships.
· Seek Forgiveness. Along with confessing any words or actions that have interfered with intimacy, ask for forgiveness. Ask, don’t demand, plead, or give ultimatums…simply ask. This is different than acknowledging the impact of your behavior. Genuinely seeking forgiveness opens us up, reveals our desire for deeper intimacy, and voluntarily places the future of our relationship in the hands of the person who feels offended. Think about that for a second. In sincerely asking for forgiveness, we become very vulnerable. This step of vulnerability reveals our true desire to see the relationship restored.
· Live Out the Fruit of Repentance. Our family may doubt the sincerity of our verbal pleas for forgiveness. So, let your actions do the talking; after all, actions speak louder than words. Diligently engage in loving actions that promote intimacy. Reveal your desire for intimacy through acts of service. Speak words that heal wounds and draw family together.
· Forgive Graciously. When family members offend you or hurt you in some way (and they will), forgive them! Graciously let go of your desire and your right for justice. Open your heart and mind to remember and recognize the positive character they exhibit in their lives. Allow yourself to observe their effort to say and do things to enhance your relationship. Let go of the offense and let it remain in your history, not in your present.
· Accept Each Family Member Unconditionally. Receive each family member into your life and heart with the express purpose of showing them kindness. Accept them regardless of mistakes, shortcomings, and irritation. Make sure each family member knows that you love them for who they are, for their uniqueness and their distinct contribution to the family…even in the midst of necessary discipline or momentary anger.
These six actions can enhance intimacy in your family; and, when practiced regularly, they will build a hedge that can protect your family intimacy. One last thing to remember: practice makes perfect so practice…practice…practice.