Who Do You Go Deep With?

defining levels of connection

All of us desire some level of relationships in our life, but circumstances and personality often dictate what these relationships look like. If we're introverted and busy, for example, we may allow ourselves to live in isolation, feeling like true connection isn't important enough to pursue. If instead we're extroverted and have the time, we may be filling up our lives with many relationships, but none of them are deep.

getting intentional about depth

Understanding the differing levels of depth that we can (and should) have in our relationships gives us freedom as we interact with others.

If we're scared or overwhelmed by the vulnerability and energy it takes to open ourselves up to being truly known by someone, then understanding that we need only go to this depth with a few people can give us the motivation to pursue it. We don't have to go there with everyone.

If we have a tendency instead to let everyone know everything about us, over-sharing the vulnerable details of our lives because we are craving that connection, there is wisdom in limiting that kind of depth to only a few people.

### What is depth and true connection?

Before we can talk about where and how to get this depth of relationships, this true connection with others, we need to define it.

True connection gives us:

  • a place to process life outside our own head

  • help with being intentional about our life, bringing our circumstances into the larger context of our purpose, to see how they fit or don't, how our choices contribute to or diminish the larger pursuit of a purposeful life.

  • people who know us well enough to point out when we're straying from our purpose, desires, or goals
  • accountability in our marriage, parenting, and friendships
  • a feeling of belonging
  • a place to be ourselves, to drop the pretense, let our guard down, express emotion and thoughts without fear of judgment
  • a community where we also give all of these benefits to others

social media interaction is not connection

Social media can be an invitation to people to go deeper with you offline, but it's not depth, it's not true connection.

We can (and should) be careful not to constantly project a fake and perfect image, and instead choose to be more real, more authentic, in our posts. But even so, the medium of social networks does not truly invite people into our life to share all of the benefits above,

to speak truth to us in a way that creates deep connection.

concentric circles

It may help to think of the relationships in our life in concentric circles. We see this modeled in Jesus's relationships as he lived His life on earth. He let people know Him and His purpose and message at different levels...

  • One: the "beloved disciple," John, with whom He had a close relationship

  • Three: Peter, James, John. He took them to a mountain where He was "transfigured" before them, letting them glimpse His true glory, His true self.

And He took them farther into the Garden of Gethsemane than the others went on the night before his crucifixion, allowing them deeper into one of His greatest moments of agony.

  • Twelve: the disciples, to whom He explained His parables, shared His specific message
  • Seventy-two: followers who were commissioned to do miracles and preach, so they must have had a greater understanding than the masses of people who followed Him.
  • Multitudes:

to these He spoke in parables the didn't understand, challenged and rebuked them in a relationship that was not personal

How do we put these circles in place in our own lives?

If we are married, we automatically have a "one." And if we're single, we may have a "best friend," though it may be more helpful to move immediately to an "inner circle."

While none of these numbers are meant to be used as a specific rule, having about three people who are our Inner Circle is a very good idea.

Again, depending on our personality, it may be a stretch to let three people know us that well, or it might be a challenge to limit ourselves to sharing deeply with only three people.

Our "medium" circle (our twelve) is a small community where we feel that we belong. We fit there and are a part of that group. These twelve will certainly vary over time, but this group knows us well and has been given permission to be a part of our life.

This small group may be found within our larger church community or perhaps elsewhere, but it's a good idea to build it from like-minded people who live life and faith in a similar way because these are influential people in our lives.

And the larger circle (our seventy-two) is the acquaintances, even friends, in our life where we show love and perhaps share life events, but do not know us as intimately as the smaller circles.

circles are healthier

For those who feel challenged or overwhelmed by lots of relationships,

limiting the really deep relationships to just a small inner circle feels more possible, and allows us to pursue healthy depth of connection without getting overwhelmed.

For those who would have lots of relationships, with a tendency to expose everything about them to everyone, there is wisdom in limiting depth to just a few.

But "healthy" does not have to mean "perfect." Sometimes we avoid depth of relationships because we fear something might go wrong and we'll get hurt. But when we look at Jesus's inner circle of twelve, there was betrayal. People might fall away, and we might be hurt. The risk is worth the reward.

a simple path to deeper connection

When we're with our three or our twelve, we must be willing to go deeper, share more, and to give more. It's critical to both belong to and limit yourself to these two circles, whether it's hard for you to open yourself up to that many people or hard for you to limit.

If you're part of a group, but it isn't really going deep, how do you get there?

You see the need for the inner circle and a twelve, but when you're with these people, you're mostly talking about surface things and not going deep.

Take these two steps:

#### Ask

Start by asking for this kind of connection with people. Sit with them and define the kind of group you want to be, the kind of friendship you want to have, the commitment you want to have to each other.

Get agreement on that, if it's there, or realize that you need to look elsewhere and can stop hoping for or expecting it with these people.

Say something like this to them:

"I'm looking for this kind of community. I'm looking for people to live life alongside me and know me in this way.

Are you looking for that too?"

give permission

Once you've gotten agreement from others about the kind of relationship or group you want, be clear about the fact that you want people to speak truth to you even when it feels uncomfortable.

Unless you explicitly give this permission to speak, very few people will tell you what they think.

(People who will tell you what they think even when you didn't ask for it, usually aren't people we enjoy being around.) People will naturally fear be open with you. You must give people permission. Say to them, "This is what I'm looking for., what I want.

When you see my off course I want you to tell me the truth."

make the time count

When you spend time with your inner circle of three or your group of twelve, there's time for fun, time for simply catching up on life-stuff.

But make sure that you are also being intentional and focused.

If your time with these people is limited, then limit the surface interaction and don't be afraid to jump into deep water quickly when you're together.

All of life is about relationship. It's about loving God and loving others and living life in the context of that love, those relationships and that connection.

So don't be afraid to go deep.

Make sure you have these circles in your life, people who

know you well and know you deeply.

your best next step

Dig Deeper

go more in-depth with this topic

Create concentric circles of people with whom to share your life, at various levels of depth.

See the Connection Circles guide

Go Further

move forward on your adventure

Take yourself through a short process of identifying truth about how God has uniquely created you for a purpose, and figuring out what that purpose might be.

See the Dream Circles Exercise