“THEY don’t like me!” That was how I would so often think when I was in school. “They don’t approve of what I do,” is also another thing I imagined my managers doing, when I was in the workplace, especially when I was young and in the party scene. “They don’t like what I write,” is sometimes a refrain that goes through my head when friends ‘ignore’ what I do. But all of these attitudes demonstrate cataclysmic assumption.
People’s perceived distance is generally nothing to do with us, ourselves.
Our perceptions, riding on the coattails of assumption, wear what our imaginations dress themselves in. And yet our minds have the capacity to check for truth (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Here are only twelve reasons we might be wrong about why people appear distant:
1. They have their own problems we don’t know about. They may not share, not because they don’t trust us. There are dozens of reasons why they may not be able to share. Pray for them.
2. They don’t have the energy. They may want to engage with us, but fear they don’t have the capacity to give what they want to the conversation.
3. They may not think we can help. And they are possibly right. We can’t be everything to everyone.
4. They might not even perceive that we’ve perceived that there’s a distance. They might be shocked to learn what we are thinking. Going to engage with them might be all that’s needed.
5. We might be perceived by them as being the distant one. What a tragedy it is when we think people are moving away from us, when, in fact, they are only responding to the fact that we have withdrawn emotionally from them. When we present as open and affectionate people respond. We are mirrors of each other in the social dynamic.
6. We might be seeing the wrong thing. Things are not always as they appear. We might be loading our own baggage onto the situation.
7. Our goals might just be misaligned. Sometimes we are just not on the same page as others, and, as mature adults, we can only accept this. Yet we may not have acknowledged this.
8. Perhaps they are distant, but not for the reason we think. It is even more important to check — in the friendliest way we can — if our perception of emotional distance is real. We rarely really know. Only if we communicate can we know. Only if we go there with a heart to listen do we stand to learn.
9. They may just be distracted. Nobody who is close to us can focus on us all the time. Indeed, it’s a fallacy borne of insecurity to think the world revolves around us. We may think this in our heads, but can we live it in our hearts?
10. They don’t know we want intimacy. They might not have perceived we are interested to the degree in them that we are. This is particularly pertinent in romantic attractions. Make it clear what you want. You can only be rejected. And, even if you are, at least you know where you stand. But you may also be embraced.
11. They may not know how to approach us. Whether it’s a particular issue they’re not sure about, or whether they’re just not able to approach in general, the point is made; we might be the ones who have set up the barrier.
12. They are just enjoying some timeout. It’s a thing we all need; timeout. We all need some alone-time to re-establish our bearings for life. They may just be taking a breaking; they may even be taking a break from us.
Rick Warren’s Purpose Drive Life book opens with the line, “It’s not about you.” Life is not about you. It’s not about me. It’s not about us. It’s about God. And the Lord is doing something in the distance we perceive between ourselves and others. He wants us to perceive the relational distance as bad, because it is! A lack of intimacy in important relationships is destructive. A lack of intimacy between friends separates allies. A lack of intimacy between enemies is also bad; while it lasts there’s no chance of reconciliation. A lack of intimacy between strangers is to be expected, but it is a follower of Jesus who can change that. Their desire is that intimacy might be their calling card; that nobody would ever feel alone in their presence; that, to know them is to have encountered Jesus in the flesh.
Intimacy is good for this one reason: we give to another the real us in a way that invites them to give them the real them.
Love finds itself expressed through intimacy. Where we reach toward a person we can expect them, generally speaking, to eventually reach toward us. Intimacy is where love finds its faculty and all relational boundaries might be disintegrated in the name of Christ.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.