Do you ever have those times when you come across something that just rocks you? Like you hear something explained in a way that you’ve never heard before, and you feel like for the first time, you completely get it! Well, guys, I’ve been rocked. God has shown up and broken off something in me in ways that are so profound. And you know what? It’s going to take a lot of vulnerability for me to share this with you because it’s not something I’m proud of. But, my hope is that by sharing it with you, it might stir something in you as well. Maybe even rock YOUR world.
The other night, I was powering through the rest of my Brené Brown book, Braving the Wilderness. At this point, I was more committed to finishing the book than I was in absorbing the content. So, I’m reading through, reading quickly, and I come across this subheading: Common Enemy Intimacy. She explains that “Common Enemy Intimacy is counterfeit connection and the opposite of true belonging. If the bond we share with others is simply that we hate the same people, the intimacy we experience is often intense, immediately gratifying, and an easy way to discharge outrage and pain. It is not, however, fuel for real connection.” Ok, so on the surface, I’m thinking ‘this is gossip.’ I always knew gossip was bad and could never exactly figure out why it always felt so good and then later felt so shameful, and ultimately resulted in a fizzling out.
I’d like to share a story that I feel is really relevant to this and still, to this day, causes me pain to think about. Back in my teaching days, I liked to make friends with the new people. In my heart, I love having friends, but I’m not the best at making them. I definitely lack a “woo factor” that helps people attract friends. So, I decide I’m going to try to make friends with the new teacher. I invite her over to hang out at my place. Small talk goes well, for the most part. We learned each other’s background and reasons why we both ended up at the same school. But around an hour in, we kind of don’t have anything else to talk about. I started getting nervous that I’m boring and that she’s thinking that she regrets coming over. So, at this point, I knew a little about who she’s liking and disliking in the building, and I decide I’m going to share with her how I’d been hurt that week by another coworker. Instantly, the conversation picks up, we realize we both feel the same way about this person and that we think so similarly. From this interaction, my friendship with this girl launched. We were “besties” for about 2 years. The coming together over a common enemy gave both of us an intense connection to each other that made us feel free to share our unfiltered thoughts. What I didn’t realize was in that bonding experience, I started a pattern and expectation. To maintain my friendship with her, I felt the need to always have SOMETHING to complain about, that me being authentic with her meant I was letting her know all the ugly that was on my mind. Eventually, it got so bad that I wouldn’t walk down to her classroom unless I felt like I had something to vent about. Our friendship was built on gossip, and it felt that that was the way we needed to maintain that friendship. When you’re a negative person, you can maybe sustain this for a few years, but what happens if you ever decide you don’t want to be negative anymore? What happens to the relationships that were built and fed by negativity if you were to decide to change?
So, going back to Brené’s truth bomb. I read this definition again and realized that this was something I had done several times in my life. I had created so many friendships around common enemies. I also realized that this was the reason I struggled so much with breaking out of my old ways and walking into who God called me to be. If you’re a girl, you probably understand that girlfriends are often your lifelines, your comfort on a rainy day. Having friends in my life is so so important to me. And I could never put my finger on why when I would call up certain friends, I would be sucked back into a place of complaining and being negative. Brené helped me realize that it’s because of the way I created those friendships, the origin of our connection.
To unpack this a bit more, I started thinking about how God created us to be relational beings. He designed us to need intimacy and connection with others. So, I was always super confused as to how when they took ugly turns that this could be something God created. I always asked myself, “If God wanted me to be in relationship, and being in relationship with imperfect people sometimes means being disappointed, feeling betrayed at times, enduring deep hurt that scars us, then WHY? God wants us to have abundant life, He designed us to be relational, but relationships brought so much pain. How could this be Your will for us, God??” I wrestled with these thoughts for most of my life as I’ve been hurt by so many people in my lifetime. Then, God brought me this book. He put definitions to my actions. He used the way my mind worked and showed me the WHY! I’d like to suggest that Common Enemy Intimacy should actually be called Enemy Intimacy. If I think back to what I know about God— that He is good, that He wants us to live life abundantly, that His joy is our strength, that love is His main vehicle for change… Then if I think about what I know about the Enemy— that he’s smart but not that creative, that he takes things that God has created and designed for good and perverts it, twists it, and uses it to steal, kill, and destroy… then it’s no stretch to think that the Enemy has taken relational intimacy, twisted it to look and feel like a real connection, but has planted a poisonous seed of his ugly character within it so that no matter how hard we try, it WILL die and we WILL be left feeling shame, self-hatred, and ugliness.
When I think back on my friendship with the new teacher, I feel so much pain. I destroyed that friendship because I started it on the enemy’s ground. I used hatred and negativity towards another and tried to grow a relationship on that foundation. I tried to sustain the friendship with more of the enemy’s tactics (because, after all, that’s why I thought she liked me in the first place), and then when it failed, I realized it was my ugliness that drove her away. I have felt shame and regret and condemnation for this. Thankfully, my relationship with God frees me from these feelings that the enemy would like me to feel the rest of my life. God’s grace flows, and now He’s teaching me through things like this book.
When I read about this topic, I was able to identify what I was doing, put a name to it, and see it for it what it really was. That clarity allowed me to then break it off of me. I’m now repulsed by the idea of it and excited about the idea of freeing others from it, too. I hope this made some sense to some of you. I hope that putting a name to it and seeing it for what it is helps you to recognize it is NOT part of who you are, who God created you to be!