Human beings were created to give and receive love, and it drives everything we do. Let me share with you how love and vulnerability create a beautiful unique human experience. Let me reflect with you on why true human love is transcendent in nature.
Because we’re innately created to give ourselves to others we must accept the fact to do so means making ourselves vulnerable. Love requires us to give ourselves to another human being with some level of abandonment. When we’re in love we communicate to the ones we love that we’re theirs, they have access to our whole being and that we’re in some way united to them. Loving someone is giving them access to the most profound parts of who we are. It’s intimacy in the most profoundly experienced way. Research on love shows there are 12 core characteristics constituting love. All these characteristics are factors leading to the experience of intimacy. These core attributes are trust, caring, honesty, friendship, respect, concern for the well-being of others, loyalty, commitment, acceptance of the other person, supportiveness, a desire to be with the person, and a real interest in one another’s lives. When we love someone we’re saying to them I trust you; I allow you to care for me and I believe you to be honest with me. We’re saying I know you’re a friend who cares and respects me and someone who is interested in my well being. We’re sharing with them that they’re someone we long to be with and we’re inviting them into a deeper level of intimacy with us.
The key to this vulnerable love is intimacy, a unique human experience that involves the sharing of ourselves with another human being. There are four key features that make intimacy a profound human experience. These key features are affection for the other, personal validation, trust, and self-disclosure. Intimacy is the way we go deeper and deeper into one another’s souls. This level of depth and this level of openness is summed up in one word. That one word is “Vulnerability.” To love another person is to make ourselves vulnerable and give them access to the very core of who we are. Being vulnerable means being open to the potential that this relationship can cause us pain.
When we talk about this kind of love, we aren’t just talking about romantic love. Sure, that seems to have most of the features we have discussed, but we also share elements like these in our deep friendships and in a healthy parent-child relationship. Intimacy is not sex, it’s sharing and giving another person access to parts of you that aren’t shared with just anyone. Sex can be an incarnational expression of intimacy in some relationships but all relationships express intimacy in one way or another.
When you love with this intensity you truly experience life. I challenge you to seek intimacy with those people in your life. There is no greater human experience than the deep intimate connections we make with one another. This world has confused love and sex, intimacy and sex, and I would argue marriage and sex. More than any of these things love is an intimate sharing of a whole person in whatever way is most appropriate. After all, this is what matters more than anything else, that we love and are loved in the most profound way. When we die we will not ask how much money we have, what we have accomplished, or even if we will be remembered. We will ask two simple questions. First, was I loved by those I spent time with? Secondly, did I love those in my life enough? These two questions can be answered by you right now.