This might be news to you, but not everyone should have the same access to you. For many Christians, this is difficult to grasp. We have core values of honor, love for the poor, serving others, laying down our lives, and being “the hands and feet of Jesus.” It’s easy to think that it is spiritual to offer all people unlimited access to our lives. But everyone who tries to do this eventually discovers that it is not sustainable, healthy, or spiritual at all.
You are responsible to manage levels of intimacy, responsibility, influence, and trust with people in your life. Likewise, you are responsible to honor the different levels of access and influence others allow you to have in their lives. These levels are absolutely righteous, healthy, normal, and good. It is supposed to be like this! It has to be like this. When we expect that we should all have equal access to one another, we are setting ourselves up to violate and be violated.
So, what are the levels of intimacy we should have in our lives?
1. The “God Spot”
The innermost circle is your core. Some people like to call this the “God spot,” because He’s the only person who belongs at the core of your heart and spirit. Nobody else knows and loves you like Jesus, nobody else deserves your heart’s primary allegiance and worship, and nobody should hold the place of influence He holds in your life.
2. Most Intimate
The next level of intimacy is for your most intimate human relationship, your deepest soul tie. Only one person is going to fit into that spot. If you are married, this should be your spouse. If you are unmarried, this person could be a friend, a parent, a sibling, or even a business partner. When you do get married, you’ll face the delicate transition as you move the person who has been on that level back a circle or two and let your spouse take his or her place. This might be uncomfortable, but it must be done to protect your relational connection and covenant with your spouse.
3. Closest Relationships
Kids, grandkids, parents, siblings and best friends are examples of people included in the next level of intimacy. These are people you will regularly make time for in your day-to-day life. Their level of access to you requires that you prioritize them over other relationships in your life, but don’t give them more influence or importance than the person holding the most intimate place.
The further out the circles of intimacy go, the more people can fit in them. The next circle contains your close friends. Heading out further, you have good friends, then co-workers, and then acquaintances. Keep going and you find the people in the same geographic location and the human race.
Yes, you are called to love “all people,” but that doesn’t mean that all people have the same access to your core. You may be called to pray for someone in Hollywood, or a group of people that feel scary, like Isis. But being called to pray for them doesn’t mean you should allow them into your core circle. It’s your job to manage your life so that you can offer people in your inmost circles appropriate access to your core.
Sometimes people hurt or scare us. If that happens, we must move them out to a place of access they can handle. Often people who once held the “most intimate” place in our lives find themselves out in the Isis sphere. The size of the mess they have to clean up is beyond their willingness to fix. We keep our love on toward them, but it may be a very long time before we ever have them over for dinner.
Maybe you are divorced or widowed and you have decided to put your children on that most intimate level. If you remarry and say, “I just want you to know that my children will always be the most important thing to me,” then you are effectively putting your spouse in submission to your children. This will not work out very well. Again, only one person deserves that most intimate place in your life.
The level of intimacy a person has in my life determines how much of myself I will offer them when they pull on the relationship. When someone wants more of me than I have decided to offer them at their level of intimacy, this is where I need to set good boundaries, and honor the boundaries I have set. I cannot treat someone in my outer circle the way I would treat my wife or one of my children. The reason I have these boundaries is to protect the most intimate relationships in my life.
Levels of intimacy set boundaries to protect the heart connection with our most valuable relationships.
Today, ask yourself, “Have I done a good job protecting my core and innermost circles of relationships, or do I need to make adjustments to protect my connections?”
PS) This blog is a part of a series on relational intelligence. If you want to learn more about how to protect your relationships, read more of these blogs here, here, here, and here.
PSS) Join in the conversation about how to walk out these tools in practice in your daily life. It’s not too late to join the Cultures and Conversations track of the Life Academy to be apart of discussions on this subject and more. This month, everything at the Life Academy is 33% off. Learn more here.