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I grew up without a dad in my life.
I did not think about it much until my middle school years, when I felt an insecurity and desire to know what it would be like to have a relationship with a dad.
I would be jealous of friends who talked about interactions with their dads, even the arguments at times. I remember watching family sitcoms, trying to learn from the dads in those shows.
It helps me to remember those times because even though I didn’t express it much, it shows how much I really desired intimacy. I felt so much loss and pain of not having a dad in my life, that I eventually decided I didn’t need one.
“I wanted to avoid the pain of rejection and loss at all costs.”
It was this decision to protect myself from pain that led me down a path of choosing isolation over intimacy. I decided from this point on that I would rather not risk the pain of a relationship; I wanted to avoid the pain of rejection and loss at all costs.
Now that I am older, I want to be close to people but since I spent so much time being self-reliant and protecting myself, I can feel unequipped in building intimacy in my marriage and now as a dad. I am grateful that God teaches how we can change and re-train ourselves to pursue intimacy.
A great scripture that has inspired and challenged me in building relationships is 2 Corinthians 6:11-13.
 My friends at Corinth, our hearts are wide open to you and we speak freely, holding nothing back from you.  If there is a block in our relationship, it is not with us, for we carry you in our hearts with great love, yet you still withhold your affections from us.  So I speak to you as our children. Make room in your hearts for us as we have done for you.2 Corinthians 6:11-13 TPT
In this passage, Paul is describing his heart for the disciples in Corinth. He was trying to love them and build intimate relationships with them, but they were not reciprocating. He was appealing to them to stop preferring isolation and start responding with intimacy.
There are a few points in this scripture that Paul challenges them about. In this study we will break down three of them: what is putting a block in our relationships, how to stop withholding affection, and how to make room in our hearts for others.
Identify your intimacy blocks
We all have intimacy blocks.
These are the internal desires and motives which lead us to isolate instead of pursue intimacy in our life. Isolation seems like a strong word, but I believe we all have ways we do it every day.
When we choose to not be honest about what we do or how we feel, we are isolating. When we would rather watch another show on Netflix instead of talking to friends, we are isolating.
So why do we make this choice?
Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.Proverbs 18:1 ESV
When we choose isolation instead of intimacy, the Bible says it is because there is a selfish desire (or what I like to call an “intimacy block”) driving it. We can only overcome these intimacy blocks when we identify them.
Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world-wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important-has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out-but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.1 John 2:15 MSG
This scripture defines three main blocks that drive us to isolate from God and friends:
- Pride Block – This is when we want our own way all the time. It prevents us from building intimacy because we refuse influence and want to be self-sufficient. We overcome this block when we learn to admire God and other people and see our need for them. (1 Corinthians 12:21)
- Selfishness Block – This is when we want everything for ourselves. This prevents intimacy because there is no room for God and other people when we are so self-consumed. It is overcome through developing compassion, empathy, and having a purpose greater than ourselves. (2 Corinthians 1:6)
- Praise Block – This is when we want to appear important. It prevents intimacy because we are so focused on how we look that we live for attention and position. We can overcome this block only when our satisfaction and security come from God not people. (Psalm 90:14)
- How do you see these intimacy blocks in your life? Which one do you identify with most?
- In what specific areas of your life do you see yourself choosing these blocks instead of intimacy with God, in marriage, or with friends?
Overcome your fear of showing affection
Another time I remember choosing to isolate was in fifth grade. There was a girl I liked, and a friend talked me into calling and asking her if she liked me back. I’d like to say that phone call led to my hopes coming true, but let’s just say that elementary school relationship was not meant to be.
I remember feeling vulnerable – I put my heart out there and it was not reciprocated. After this interaction, I was always afraid to show affection or desire to be close within a relationship, because I never wanted to feel rejected again.
Many of us have similar experiences of rejection, failure, or pain in relationships. Though it can be tempting to stay in isolation because of these hurtful experiences, we need to overcome our fear of showing affection if we truly want to pursue intimacy.
 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.  There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  We love because he first loved us.1 John 4:17-19 NIV
Fear is a powerful motivator to keep ourselves in a safe place emotionally. We don’t want to risk rejection or pain.
It is scary to show people how much you love them, desire to be close, or even appreciate or admire them. This is because giving your heart leaves you vulnerable and open to rejection. It is easy to let this fear stay with you even if the other person gives you no reason to be afraid.
God is the only one who can give us the confidence to overcome this fear. When we know we are accepted and loved by God, we have the courage to show our love to anyone. As 1 John 4:19 says – “we love because he first loved us.”
So we can say with great confidence: “I know the Lord is for me and I will never be afraid of what people may do to me!”Hebrews 13:6 TPT
When we know God is with us, rejection from people does not rock us. We are able to understand that other people are just like us – afraid of intimacy. Since we already have unfailing love from God, we can freely give our hearts and be loving.
- How does fear make you isolate in relationships?
- What relationship have you been afraid to express affection in?
Clear out your heart to make room for others
Lastly, if we are going to build relationships with intimacy, we have to make room in our hearts to love more.
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.Psalm 10:4 NIV
The Bible teaches us that when we are proud, we spend so much time thinking about ourselves that there is no room for God. If we don’t even have room for God, it is safe to assume there won’t be much room for anyone else.
God has given me grace to speak a warning about pride. I would ask each of you to be emptied of self-promotion and not create a false image of your importance. Instead, honestly assess your worth by using your God-given faith as the standard of measurement, and then you will see your true value with an appropriate self-esteem..Romans 12:3 TPT
To make room in our hearts for God, we must empty ourselves of self-promotion and self-importance. This can be difficult because so much of our security hangs on how we look and the feeling of being important.
Real confidence comes when we stop placing value on what we can do, and instead on our belief in what God can do.
 If you bow low in God’s awesome presence, he will eventually exalt you as you leave the timing in his hands.  Pour out all your worries and stress upon him and leave them there, for he always tenderly cares for you.1 Peter 5:6-7 TPT
We don’t have to take care of ourselves. God has our back. When we pray and leave those worries, fears and anxieties with God, it clears up space and leaves room for God who can instill a love for others in our hearts (1 John 4:19).
- What anxieties, worries, and fears do you hold onto? Why don’t you pray and leave them with God?
- Who in your life needs you to care and unload some of their stress and anxiety?