We have often discussed how, in America in particular, we tend to feel a need to live with walls around us. The homophobic nature of our culture means any form of touch of another of the same sex lends itself to ridicule and derision. The word "intimacy" scares the heck out of us, and yet at the same time our hearts absolutely yearn for intimate connections with others. We deny our hearts for fear of what others will think, for fear of appearing too needy, for fear of being vulnerable.
The shocking part is that survey after survey reveals that loneliness is the #1 mental health issue of our era. Still, like the unwisest of fools, we continue to repeat the same behavior hoping for a different outcome.
In our family, we decided a long time ago that we were not going to fear closeness, but encourage it. We understand that the very best of relationships, platonic or romantic, all stem from a willingness to trust and be vulnerable with those we care about. We hold long, hug often, and speak openly of the things that our hearts are troubled by.
You know what? We can't make it without living in "Radical Softness". Team LaJoy is what it is because we don't hide from our real selves, and don't hide our real selves from others. I can not begin to imagine where we would be as a family if we hadn't always tried to practice Radical Softness with one another, and with those nearest and dearest to us.
When we sense teasing is cutting a little too close to the bone, we stop and apologize. When one of the kids gets in trouble, it has always been our hard and fast rule that ANYONE who laughs at that child will be punished more harshly for we don't revel in someone else's mistakes. When you make a mistake, you apologize sincerely, and that includes mom and dad, too.
We help one another, and we never let someone "go it alone" if we can help it, not even our friends in times of need. Radical Softness means we love fully, without reservation, and if others want to criticize our love for others, then shame on them...gay or straight, white or black or purple, old or young, gifted or special needs, all are embraced warmly, with great vigor, and their humanity is seen.
In a world where we humans are told that we should never let others see our weaknesses, we distance ourselves from the life saving connections that help us thrive. In a world where we are told we can't possibly be close with someone who is twice our age, such as our teens with the seniors in their lives who really matter, we all end up emotionally poorer. In a world where toughness is valued, where "grit" means riding out the storm alone, and where you don't DARE hug someone for fear of how it might be interpreted, we all suffer from "touch deficit" as we ache to be hugged, ache to be touched in platonic ways, ache for someone to ease our emptiness.
We live in a world where seniors go WEEKS without a single hand resting upon theirs, where our toddlers are put to bed without kisses or being held and read to. We live in a world where men can't hold one another in a hug without slapping each other on the back in some "manly" effort to show they are straight, because dear Lord, don't let me even connect the word "intimate" with someone of the same gender.
But what does "intimate" really mean, and why are we so darned afraid of it? According to Dictionary.com, here are some meanings for the word "intimate":
Characterized by or suggesting an atmosphere conducive to privacy or intimacy; warmly cozy.
Characterized by or involving warm friendship or a personally close or familiar association or feeling.
Associated in close personal relations.
How I love the bolded above, "warmly cozy"...ahhhhhh...doesn't that sound like something we all wish for?
This photo of the girls long before we were able to bring them home oozes intimacy, it is what drew me to them because immediately I saw in them the relationship I saw in our boys...a closeness that is mirrored in the way our sons were with one another.
Why? Why are we so scared to express our affection for others? Why do we prefer isolation and loneliness to togetherness and closeness?
I much prefer to be counter cultural this way. I love NOTHING more than seeing our full grown teenage sons hug other men and older woman at church! I love knowing I can turn to my own family to fill up my "love tank" when it feels like it is approaching empty. I love that there is laughter without bitterness, kindness without agenda, and a unique kind of Radical Softness that means ANYONE is included in our circle who wishes to be, and they will be well loved.
In Radical Softness, I say, "let them be". We will go on loving, being Team LaJoy, caring for others, holding and hugging and laughing as much as we can. Life is too short to do otherwise.