Intimacy – The desire we have for someone to know and love us for who we are. This is a desire put inside us by God Himself, and it can only be ultimately and completely filled by Him. But here on earth, God has graciously blessed us with the experience of true intimacy with others as well. We call them soul mates or best friends.
True intimacy is one of the qualities of a great marriage, and we ideally hope to achieve it with our spouses. Unfortunately, non-marital sex has become a cheap imitation of true intimacy in our culture. It can make us feel close even when we hardly know each other.
Levels of Intimacy – Roger Hillerstorm
Level One: Lowest Level
The lowest level is where we share what Hillerstrom calls superficial reports or factual statements like:
“It’s a nice day.”
“The Kings won last night.”
“That view is gorgeous.”
When a relationship consists primarily of superficial interaction like this, it’s not very deep.
Level Two: Low Level
Hillerstrom says this is the level where we offer third-party perspectives and beliefs:
“Yesterday I was reading in the paper…”
“My grandma always used to say…”
“My friend believes…”
Hillerstrom says that at this level we are sharing a piece of ourselves by quoting from those with whom we associate. We are not directly divulging anything about ourselves, however, and are therefore safe from others criticizing or rejecting us. This level is only slightly more vulnerable than level one.
Level Three: Moderate Level
This is where we begin to open up about ourselves, where we begin to share our own perceptions and beliefs:
“I believe abortion is wrong.”
“I think Christians should be proactive in politics.”
“I believe in traditional marriage.”
At this level we tell others what we think about things. And if the person we’re telling is important to us or if we want to avoid conflict or rejection, we may be willing to change our opinion if we sense disapproval. Or at least well say that we’ve changed it.
Level Four: High Level
Now we get personal and intimate. Hillerstrom says that at this level we begin to share our personal history— things we’ve done and choices we’ve made, good or bad.
“My greatest accomplishment was to win a national journalism award.”
“I’ve had more sexual partners than I can count.”
“When I was 21, I had an abortion.”
We’re taking a chance here. If we’re rejected at this level, we can’t change our minds or retract what we’ve said, because we can’t change our history. If we sense disapproval, all we can do is try to make others believe that we’ve changed.
Level Five: Highest Level
This is where genuine intimacy lies, Hillerstrom says. It’s where we share our feelings and emotional reactions— those that are most precious and most fragile.
“I’m hurt by what you said.”
“I’m angry about what you did.”
“The way you treat me, I feel so special.”
The risk at this level is that if others reject our feelings, needs, and emotional reactions, we have no escape as in levels one through four; we must simply absorb or respond to the pain.
Our deepest feelings and emotions don’t change quickly. What I’m feeling at my core today will be there tomorrow as well. So there’s a risk that if you reject me today, you’ll also reject me tomorrow. The other scary part is that people can use our vulnerable feelings against us later. Repeated injuries are often even more painful than the first time. To get to this level we need to develop deep trust in the other person. We trust that they will accept our emotions, needs, and feelings, and still love us just as we are.
What level are you?