The gift of going first on the path to intimacy
Our vulnerability is our gift to others
After not having a lot of opportunity to read much this last week, I finally got to reading the next chapter of Phileena Heuertz’s Pilgrimage of a Soul last night. It was the chapter titled ‘Intimacy’ and it was deeply affecting. Here are a few snippets:
Often, the very part of ourselves that we are most embarrassed by or feel most vulnerable about is the exact gift others need from us.
At the end of life’s journey, it doesn’t matter what we have, what we do, or what others say about us. What will matter is whether or not we are known and loved for who we are, and whether or not we have known and loved our family and friends well.
In knowing and embracing our self, we find courage to offer our self to the world — most intimately to the people with whom we are in relationship. We are more inclined to put our self out there to be known when we are comfortable in our own skin.
I find this hugely challenging. Do I truly know my self? Do others know who I truly am? Intimacy is about knowing and being known and yet how well known am I really? And how well do I know those in my life?
The greater the intimacy in our relationships, the greater the sense of fulfilment we get from them. Sometimes it feels like many of us would love to share more of ourselves with others, but we’re afraid to. We’re waiting for each other to go first.
But taking the first step and revealing something meaningful of ourselves to others is a gift. The gift of going first. When we take the risk of opening up, instead of shame (which we fear) in fact we find people responding with, ‘Me too.’
When we take the first step, we make it easier for others to follow. If we want true intimacy in our relationships with others, we can’t afford to wait for others to take the lead. We could be waiting our whole lives.
I’m writing to myself as much as anyone else here. Truthfully, I’m not good at this. There is a fear to being truly known. What will people think? Until we embrace that risk though, we’ll never get the reward of intimacy.
Of course, as some of those snippets above make clear, in order to be vulnerable with others, we have to know our self. Very often we end up projecting a false vulnerability. Not because we’re consciously trying to trick people. But because we don’t actually know ourselves.
That’s why self-awareness is a key stage of the journey to intimacy and vulnerability. It’s why I’m finding the Enneagram tool a helpful framework for understanding myself better, and as a result, sharing more of myself with others.
Ultimately, reading this chapter reminded me that intimacy is a result of deliberate choices. It won’t happen by accident. And I think we all need to be reminded of that sometimes.