The golden rule of intimacy

By Dave Henning / December 10, 2017

“What is the golden rule of intimacy?  Here it is: ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.’ “- John Ortberg

In Chapter 6 (“The Joy of Jury Duty: The Golden Rule of Intimacy”) of I’d Like You More . . . , John Ortberg states a single command given by the apostle Paul contains the core secret to human connection.  Furthermore, John asserts, you’ll never lack for intimate friendships if you follow this golden rule of intimacy.  And, the author adds, this principle is so:

  • simple that even a child can master it
  • challenging that even some geniuses never quite get it

Therefore, people who are able to read us well (a) bond with us as well as (b) possess the ability to lead us from a negative to a positive emotional state.  Also, since emotions trigger either positive or negative automatic sensations, we immediately seek out someone with who we’re able to share that experience.

In addition, “feeling felt” requires the dual gifts of knowing and acceptance.  As Pastor Ortberg explains, the beauty of connection happens when someone knows about your weakness, yet accepts you fully.  Plus, this process of connection involves a concept called attunement.  Daniel Coleman (Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships) defines attunement as “attention that goes beyond momentary empathy to a full, sustained presence that facilitates rapport.”

Most noteworthy, John observes, sharing our experiences creates a magic arithmetic.  Sharing joy increases joy.  And when we share pain, that pain decreases.  However, Pastor Ortberg cautions, disregarding Paul’s golden rule of intimacy sows the seeds of human discord.

Finally, John stresses the damage caused when someone else mourns and you rejoice.  The German word for this, schadenfreude, means something like “malicious joy.”  We must not take pleasure in another’s misery.

Today’s question: How do you apply the apostle Paul’s golden rule of intimacy?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Sharing the burden of their sorrows”

About the author

Dave Henning

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