Intimacy: What Does It Even Mean?

by Jason Peaks
(The introduction to this post can be found here.)

When it comes to words, I always feel the need to define the terms. I blame Dr. Cecil Kramer’s argumentation and debate class, where he felt the need to lovingly berate us in his whiny baritone voice by asking us to not even start a conversation or debate without shared meaning about the words being used. So that being said, what does intimacy actually mean? What should we use to guide this journey?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, intimacy came into usage in the 1640s. And typically was used to mention sexual intercourse, particularly in newspapers as a euphemism. Intimacy is contrived of two parts: “intimate” and “cy.” All “cys” when attached to words simply mean “a state or rank” of whatever they are attached to. So intimacy is literally the quality or rank of being intimate. This doesn’t help us as many of us have no understanding of what intimate means either.

Intimate is an adjective. Meaning it is used to modify, qualify, or describe nouns. Intimate came into use in the 1630s and was used to demonstrate the quality of being, “closely acquainted, very familiar,” also used from a late Latin word intimatus, meaning inmost, intrinsic. This word is connected to two other Latin words, intimare and intimus meaning “make known, announce, impress,” and “inmost, innermost, deepest” respectively. I know that is probably a lot for you to handle at once, so I think I will define intimacy in this simple way:

Intimacy is the position of being known and making known the deepest feelings, affections, thoughts, and desires. For me it could be more simply expressed as: intimacy is disclosure and embrace. Intimacy cannot be had alone. It takes two people or more. One person shares their secrets and the other person keeps them. I shed my defenses and you shield me. I open the door and you make sure it’s shut. I make myself vulnerable and you keep me safe. A caveat: just because you share your deep dark secret with someone does not mean you have intimacy. Intimacy is a quality, not a moment, meaning it must continue to take place over time and experience.

Now that we have our working definition of intimacy being “disclosure and embrace,” we will cover the Biblical understanding of intimacy and see how the Scriptures modifies our definition.

Tune in for next time, “Intimacy: Let’s Get Biblical, Biblical!”