The truth about intimacy

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HOW would you define intimacy? In a world drowning in social media, reality TV and an endless stream of advice on sexual fulfilment, it’s a good question to ask.

I came across a good answer several years ago which defined intimacy as:
Knowing and being known
Loving and being loved
Serving and being served
Forgiving and being forgiven

It captures the essence of intimacy because it puts it in terms of the other person. There is a clear intent to know the other person deeply, love them unconditionally, serve them sacrificially and to freely forgive them when it is required.

True intimacy in a relationship also fosters other traits.

When a couple bond together in intimacy, when they become “one”, they have courage to face life together. Solomon said that “two are better than one”, going on to describe the peril of falling into a pit on your own. Sharing life with another brings the security of knowing that they are there for you in difficult times – you can both face whatever life throws at you together, courageously!

It also encourages the gift of love that chooses. I am so grateful to my wife, Karen, who held out her heart to me early in our relationship and basically said, “This is who I am – will you love me?”

And I did the same with her. And we both chose to love each other, despite our failings and weaknesses.

Love that chooses is a precious gift indeed. Honesty is also the fruit of true intimacy.

Genesis says that Adam and Eve both stood before each other “naked and not ashamed”.

The nakedness spoken of here is spiritual, mental, psychological and physical nakedness.

What freedom there is when you can stand before another without wearing any masks, to be truly “naked” before them and to feel no shame!

And what happiness we cheat ourselves of when we simply interpret such a statement as referring only to the physical!

Christopher and Rachel McCluskey explain it well when they write:

“…it is important that husbands and wives enjoy intimacy without necessarily needing to be sexual, and because (unfortunately) husbands and wives are often sexual without being intimate…there is a world of difference between simply having sex and truly making love. The world uses these phrases interchangeably and, indeed, the acts themselves are the same. But the spirit of making love is entirely different from simply having sex.”

Not surprisingly, this leads to greater depths of intimacy between the couple who are prepared to take the path of truly knowing each other.

What a wonderful thought lies behind this idea of truly knowing someone!

You may be familiar with the term, “…he knew his wife…” and which is so often viewed from a sexual standpoint.

But the same word is also used to describe a person as “knowing God”. The concept speaks of knowing someone “thoroughly and deeply”.

Intimate couples are those who know each other thoroughly and deeply – they seek to know the other person and they in return, feel thoroughly known.

There are things I know about Karen that no one else has ever known and never will know. And it is the same for me with her.

In our seeking to know and be known by each other we have built security, understanding and deep love.

One of the greatest gifts Karen has ever given to me was the day she said to me, “I feel safe with you!”

Please don’t be under any illusions about what I am saying here. The path to true intimacy is filled with pain, tears, hard times and frustration but I would not exchange it for what so many settle for – a shallow existence with someone they barely know.

Far better to embrace the One who made you for intimacy and the one that you call husband or wife.?

Dance with me!

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THE HIT SONG Shut up and dance captures the wonder and excitement of a blossoming romance:

We were victims of the night
The chemical, physical, kryptonite
Helpless to the bass and the fading light
Oh we were bound to get together
Bound to get together
She took my arm
I don’t know how it happened
We took the floor and she said
Oh don’t you dare look back
Just keep your eyes on me
I said you’re holding back
She said shut up and dance with me
This woman is my destiny
She said oh oh oh
Shut up and dance with me

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the phrase “shut up and dance with me” is not the number one pick for encouraging love and intimacy between a couple, but I disagree!

The boy is attracted to the girl but he is hesitant to get out onto the dance floor with her. Perhaps he can’t dance; he could be afraid of making a fool of himself or that someone else will cut in and dance with his girl.

He has a question – does she really want to be out there with me or is she reluctant?

So she looks him in the eye and says, “Shut up and dance with me!”

It’s not bad advice for when a relationship hits a bump or two, regardless of how long you have been together.

A lack of good inter-personal skills can be one of those bumps. Some people are extremely shy, so sharing deeply with another person can be awkward and embarrassing.

For others, it may be that past experiences with family members or friends have them left them emotionally damaged or wary of intimacy.

The good news is that there are a wealth of tools available today that enable people to develop healthy relational and communication skills – the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality website (emotionallyhealthy.org) has a variety of resources to encourage deeper relationships among people.

Then there is the bump of fear that relationships often encounter. “What if this won’t last?” “What if the other person doesn’t really like me?” “Did I marry the wrong person?”

Unfounded fear severely hampers intimacy between two people and it will cripple a relationship.

If you are struggling with fear and it is holding you back from intimacy, then give voice to it. Speak with a counsellor or trusted friend about your fears and find healing in their objective advice.

Bring your fear into the light and see how quickly it begins to fade!

The bump of insecurity also damages a couple’s intimacy. We all have insecurities but some of us allow them to eat away at us, gnawing at our brains.

“Am I good enough for my husband/wife?”

“Does he/she really love me for who I am?”

“Will they leave me for someone else?”

I have found that the best way of dealing with some of these insecurities is to talk to your husband or wife about them. Make sure that you clearly explain to them that this is your problem, not theirs and then share openly the “what” and “why” of your insecurity.

And if you are the receiver in this conversation then listen with your ears and your heart, ready to speak the words of assurance and comfort that they need.

Every relationship will have its bumps and these need to be addressed, worked through – never ignore them.

But sometimes, as the song above suggests, we can allow the bumps to consume us and we look for reasons as to why this will fail.

Sometimes a husband or wife just needs to look their troubled lover in the eye, speak the words of love and reassurance they long for and simply say, “Shut up and dance with me!”

May you know the utter exhilaration of dancing forever with the one you love deeply!

Marriage is like dancing together

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WATCHING PEOPLE DANCE can be a fascinating exercise at times.

Some are out on the dance floor, busting a move and they look great – but they dance alone.

Others dance with a partner, moving in beautiful symmetry together as they look into each other’s eyes.

Occasionally you see a couple where one partner is fully engaged while the other stares blankly over their shoulder, plainly bored and disinterested.

In case you haven’t noticed, marriage is a lot like dancing!

Great dancing requires great communication and understanding between the couple – and when they get it right, magic happens out there on the floor!

Likewise, a great marriage requires two people who are committed to each other and who are also prepared to grow and change in ways that produce a deeper understanding and care for each other.

When one, or both, partners are disengaged in the relationship, indifference sets in and the very real likelihood that you will end up dancing alone.

When it comes to dancing, I have two left feet while Karen is the dancer in my life. Through her loving encouragement, I have mustered up the courage to get out on the dance floor with her and not make a complete fool of myself!

Yet in the dance of our marriage, neither of us can claim any expertise.

Over the years, we have had to discover and apply many valuable principles that have enabled us to dance well together in our marriage.

One principle has been a commitment to be truly present with each other when we are talking.

It can be very easy to “zone out” or become distracted by something else when your partner is talking to you.

Our simple discipline to help us break that habit is that when are aware it is happening we admit it and apologise for doing so. It is humbling to confess that you were not paying attention, but it is also an effective circuit breaker that produces real change.

The principle of apologising when you are wrong in other areas has also enabled us to dance well together in our marriage.

We keep it pretty simple. We admit our mistake, apologise sincerely for it and ask for forgiveness – there is something humbling in that as well!

Most importantly, with the apology comes a genuine commitment to change our behaviour. People who only apologise but never change are extremely “unsafe” people.

Thinking of the marriage relationship as a dance also reminds me of the great dance of life that God invites us to be a part of.

One of the beautiful images that we have of God is that of the dance of relationship that exists between the Father, Son and the Spirit. They communicate, act and love in complete harmony – it is the great dance of God!

On the night He was to leave His disciples, Jesus prayed that they would all “be one”. His prayer was grounded in the unity that exists between Himself and His Father and Jesus’ desire was that His followers would experience that same unity and oneness; that they might dance in unity and love in their relationship with God and with each other.

Interestingly, the oneness Jesus prays would be between us and God the Father is also the same concept at the heart of oneness in marriage – unity, love and openness.

It was for this oneness – with God, others and our partners – that Jesus died and rose on that first Easter centuries ago.

He invites us all to the great dance of life with Him and each other, not indifferently but as fully engaged participants!?

Clarifying expectations is vital

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I HAVE been reading and thinking about expectations in the context of marriage, and what interests me in the definition supplied by the Oxford Dictionary is the conviction that an expectation is something that is virtually certain, based on what someone believes.

ex¦pect|ation (noun) A strong belief that something will happen or be the case.

Every relationship is influenced by expectations – parents and children, husbands and wives, close friendships – and when expectations are not met tensions begin to surface.

“You didn’t call me on my birthday – don’t I matter to you?”

“Your school report tells me you are not trying – why can’t you apply yourself like Melinda?”

“We have missed the garbage pick up again – why can’t you remember to put the bins out?”

An author I read recently pointed out that “we expect other people to know what we want before we say it” and this is where expectations create problems in relationships.

Karen and I learnt early in our marriage the value of clearly communicating our expectations to each other in loving ways, even in the seemingly insignificant things.

I am a bit OCD when it comes to the way I like to have my shirts hung in the wardrobe – all in the same direction which makes it easier when you take them out – so imagine my surprise when I discovered that the girl I married hung them in there any old way!

I had a choice. I could simply “suck it up” and learn to adapt or I could have a potentially embarrassing conversation with my then young bride and explain to her my preference. (I say embarrassing because I genuinely feared that she would think I was some sort of pedantic, shirt hanging wardrobe loony!)

So I approached her sensitively, explained that it probably seemed silly to her, that I was not angry but would she mind if…? And her response? She had a quiet, understanding laugh about it (we both did), thanked me for telling her and said she didn’t mind hanging them my way at all.

The way we both approached that seemingly insignificant situation has become a foundation for our marriage that we have both endeavoured to build upon for over 34 years. That does not mean that we have always got it right but the commitment to be clear with each other in communicating our expectations in loving and humble ways is stronger than it has ever been.

How do we clarify expectations?

In her marriage enrichment program, The Third Option, Pat Ennis points out expectations in a relationship “are only valid when they have been mutually agreed upon” and to clarify expectations couples need to ask some important questions:
“Did either of us know that we had this expectation?”
“Is it reasonable?”
“Have we told each other about it or have we just assumed the other person should know?”

Such questions are important when considered in the light of the definition that I gave at the top of this page. If I have a “strong belief” that Karen should respond in a certain way and I think it “will happen”, what happens to me emotionally when she doesn’t do as I expected?

I might become angry, hurt, disappointed…or all of these! But if she is unaware of my expectation, if I have not clearly communicated it, then who is at fault? Instead of living in a fog of perpetual disappointment because I think she keeps on letting me down, I must take the time to lovingly and graciously communicate my expectations to her as well as asking myself if they are reasonable and something that we can both agree upon.

Unclear and unreasonable expectations can profoundly damage any relationship so taking the time as a couple to share and agree on each other’s expectations will not only enrich your marriage, it just makes good sense!

Best marriage gifts at Christmas

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DESPITE our best attempts it is difficult not to think about gifts when Christmas comes around each year and this is especially true if you have young children! There are also many voices that compete for our attention at Christmas and among them is the one that cries, “Let’s remember the true meaning of Christmas!” I agree with that sentiment but I want to ask the question – how many of us take that seriously?

I think many of us agree with the suggestion but deep down we know that there are expectations from others that we will be giving out presents and we also have an expectation that we will receive gifts.

Perhaps what is needed is a shift in our thinking about what a gift really is as well as recognizing the many gifts that we already have, so as a couple this Christmas why not think in terms of one of those gifts that you have – the wonderful and enriching gift of intimacy?

Why should a couple think of intimacy as a gift?

Because it is the gift of companionship. As a couple you have both been blessed to not go through life alone. You have been gifted with a friend with whom you can do life with! Solomon described it well when he said, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.” Loneliness is the only companion many will know at Christmas so be thankful for the friend by your side with whom you not only share Christmas but life as well.

It is also the gift of presence. True intimacy is so much more than merely talking with someone at a deeper level. It is also about giving the other person the gift of yourself. It is so easy to give a person the impression that you are listening to them when in reality you are thinking about being somewhere else or about what you want to say next. But presence in intimacy involves empathy, interest and genuine concern for the other person.

And it is the gift of oneness. Intimacy between a couple brings a sense of completeness; that the one I am married to makes me a stronger person and the sense that together there is no challenge too great for us to face. True oneness provides support for each other in difficult times and the security of knowing that you are deeply loved by another.

And this wonderful gift is closely tied to the true meaning of Christmas! For Christmas is the time when we are reminded of the gift by God of His Son, Jesus, to the world. His Son who would grow to manhood, point people back to His Father and ultimately die for their sin that they – and we- might experience intimacy and relationship with God.

Through Jesus we experience companionship. He walked through the same, difficult world that we do – He is not a stranger to our pain. He experienced rejection, weakness and suffering but never stopped caring for, loving or healing hurting people.

He was present with us. More than that, He was God present with us and proved beyond doubt that God loves us and is concerned for us. How easily He could have remained aloof from our pain but instead, He walked among us and saw firsthand what sin, suffering and injustice had done to the world.

And He offers us oneness. Through His life and death the door is opened up for us to know God personally and deeply and a relationship that is defined by love not fear.

Yes, let us remember “the true meaning of Christmas” but in doing so let us also be prepared to change our focus by being thankful for its presence in our lives and for the gift of knowing God through His Son Jesus.

A choice between vulnerability and selfishness

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M. SCOTT PECK, author of The Road Less Travelled, once stated that we are all born narcissists and that our goal as we journey through life is to grow out of that narcissism, out of loving and living for ourselves.

I agree with Peck! Each of us can choose to journey through life independently, focused only on ourselves or we can seek to reach out to people and enter into meaningful relationships with them.

However, if we choose the unselfish path, which requires intimacy, then we must recognize that there is a cost involved in pursuing it.

If you want to go deep in your relationship with your spouse then it is going to require that you be vulnerable. Most of us are good at conversations that revolve around simple pleasantries – “Hi, how are you? I’m fine thanks!” Some of us are quite adept at talking about other people! But when it comes to sharing things such as our ideas about a topic of how we feel about things we run a mile!

WHY DO WE RUN?

Because when we share our ideas or our feelings we know that risk is involved. There is the risk that the person we are talking to may scoff at our idea or worse, repudiate, laugh at or reject our feelings. For some people this is too great a risk to run and so they withdraw from relating to a person at an intimate level.

Some of us are just plainly not interested. The idea of sitting and listening to someone frightens us because we sense that something may be required of us – that there will be an expectation that we must also share about ourselves with the other person.

Rather than do that we simply stop interacting with people. A frustrated wife once asked her counselor if she had ever heard of “the great stone face”. “I believe I have” replied the counselor. “Well, I’m married to him” said the wife, “He doesn’t listen and he doesn’t talk!” I don’t know what was driving the husband to be like that but it was pretty clear that he was not interested in an intimate relationship with his wife.

Others are simply just too tired for relationship. They spend all day in a demanding job or they have been home all day catering to the incessant demands of young children and day’s end finds them with an emotional tank so low that they have nothing more to give to their spouse.

All of this brings me back to my original thought: we are all born narcissists. In other words, we are more inclined to look after our own needs than the needs of others. I would suggest that when we choose not to be vulnerable or we are not interested in others then we are being selfish.

If we really desire closeness in our marriages or with others then we are going to have to do some hard work.

We will choose to be vulnerable, to open ourselves up to others and to share ourselves with them.

Instead of a callous indifference toward people we will choose to listen and to show an active interest in them and their needs.

And sometimes it will require that at the end of a busy day, despite our own tiredness, we will choose to sit down with our spouse and ask them how they are feeling, what they are struggling with, what was the highlight of their day and give them the gift of both our time and presence.

Ebenezer Scrooge was described by Dickens as being “as solitary as an oyster” – what a desperately lonely character he was until he realized how miserable he had become by shutting people out of his life.

Intimacy is costly because it requires that we stop focusing on ourselves and start engaging with people in life-giving ways.

But then, who wants to live as an oyster?

Satisfying intimacy requires vulnerability and risk

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A COMMON QUESTION that will be asked around thousands of meal tables tonight will be, “How was your day?” If I was a gambling man I can almost guarantee that the answer will be something like, “Fine, how was yours?”

In this age of instant global connection via social media it seems to me that we have never been more distant in our understanding of each other.

We regularly hear stories of people who have thousands of online ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ but in the deepest part of their soul they long for just one person with whom they can connect with at an emotional and personal level.

This hidden loneliness is often found in many marriages where the couple may have lived under the same roof for decades but have never made the soul connection that is so essential to healthy intimacy in marriage.

The intimacy I am referring to is not sexual or physical. I mean an intimacy that frees two people to be open and honest with each and which produces a deep level of trust that lasts for a lifetime.

It is generally held by the communication experts that there are five levels of communication that progressively build upon each other: it begins with cliché conversation and then moves on to reporting the facts about others. From that point you start to move into areas that require a greater level of disclosure about yourself. You begin to share your ideas, then your feelings (an extremely vulnerable place to be) until you arrive at what is described as peak communication – the place where you are totally open and honest with the other person.

I think many people want to be at that place with another person – peak communication – but they simply don’t know how to get there. This was highlighted for me in an article I read recently about a married couple who were struggling with this, and in telling their story shared how they learned to ask each other questions that required answers that went beyond the surface. In other words, they stopped asking each other “how was your day?”!

Kate McCombs blogs that there are six questions that couples can experiment with that can open up conversation between people and avoid the tired old “how was your day?” routine. She suggests the following:

”Did you have any victories that you want to share?”

“Were there any challenges that you want empathy about?”

”Were there any surprisingly fun moments in your day?”

”Did you have any nice connections with your colleagues?”

”What was frustrating about your day?”

”Now that you’re home, is there anything you’d love to brag about?” (Because we can’t always do this with colleagues but it is great when we can with partners.)

As you read this you may be thinking to yourself that the questions above seem a little forced. That’s okay – experiment with them and word them in a way that makes them feel more like you. But don’t dismiss them.

Questions like these show that a level of thought has gone into them and that you are genuinely interested in the other person.

They also require that the other person takes the time to think through their answer rather than slipping into the old cliché of “Everything is fine, how about you?”

Politeness is fine, but marriages need to be built on more than mere politeness in order for intimacy to flourish!

And intimacy requires cost. It will cost you to ask and answer questions like these because you are prepared to risk being vulnerable with another human being. But it is a risk worth taking!

You will always be a father and grandfather

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“Gramps! Gramps! Can we do super hero and dragging please?” Over the past two months this has been a constant question that I have heard from the lips of my grandchildren during their stay with us.

What, exactly, is “super hero and dragging” I hear you ask? It involves me picking up each of my grandchildren (there are four in this particular family!), holding them in the plank position while I simulate flying them around the house Superman style on their way to bed. The dragging bit was where they held onto my ankles and I would drag them across our slippery wooden floors.

This has been my regular, night time routine for each one of them while their family has stayed with us as they prepare to move east for a few years.

Why am I telling you this?

Because while they have been living with us I have been reminded that you never stop being a father, never.

Having six extra people living in our house for two months, four of them under the age of seven, has been challenging but it has also been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in a long time.

It would have been tempting to have “checked out” when they all descended on my family back in early June and just wait out the next two months until they left for the East Coast. But I chose to engage with them and make this as enjoyable a time for all of us as possible.

And so I discovered many things.

I discovered that my one-year-old grandson has an adorable smile that lights up when you do one of those stupid things that grandfathers are renowned for.

I learned that my three-year-old grandson expresses his gratitude and love by throwing his arms around you and giving you a big hug.

I found out that my five-year-old granddaughter cannot stop giggling as you “super hero” her around the house.

And I also learned that my eldest granddaughter, though excited about moving to the other side of the country was also understandably sad to be leaving her extended family and friends behind.

I would have missed all this and more if I had simply chosen to withdraw into myself and ride things out until they left – I’m glad I chose to engage with them.

Let me speak to you as one Dad (and Grandfather) to another. I know that you are busy and that at the end of the day you need some space when you arrive home. Coming home to a house full of excited (sometimes whinging!) kids is no picnic. I have been in fairly demanding roles for most of my working life so I understand what this feels like.

But the reality is that we only have the briefest of moments with our children. It’s a cliché but it’s also true – they really do grow up quickly!

Don’t abdicate the role that you have as a Dad or a Grandfather to someone else. Only you can be that person in their lives. So get involved with your kids and resolve to do something stupid with them as well, like “super hero” them to bed!

Is it worth it? The sad look in my granddaughter’s eyes as she told me the day she left that “we couldn’t do the ‘super hero and dragging’ tonight” tells me it is.

You’re a Dad. You have been blessed with beautiful kids. Don’t waste a minute of it!

What is falling in love?

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I’ve been asking myself this question lately: “When do you fall in love with a person?” In fact, what does it mean to “fall in love”? I think most people believe that it is something that cannot be controlled, that you fall into love itself, much like you fall into a pool of water and are engulfed by it.

One author described a couple as having “a feeling or a feeling had them…they didn’t quite know…” He was being humorous but I think he had a point.

So here is what I think. To fall in love is much the same as what happens to a soldier or knight who falls in battle. He goes in prepared for the fight but it soon overwhelms him. The odds against him are greater than he can withstand and he falls, a casualty of the battle.

I think this is what happens when we fall in love. We don’t fall into a feeling so much – as wonderful as the feeling is – but we are conquered by our love for the other person, overwhelmed by it and it’s also because we realise that we have found someone that we want to spend the rest of our life with and who is worthy of all the love that we can give them.

Now I can’t prove this definition of falling in love because I haven’t checked it out but I think I’m pretty close to the mark!

So I return to my first question. When do you fall in love with a person?

Ah, that is the question!

Couples begin to date because they like each other and as the relationship grows they find that they like each other even more. Many of them get to the point of loving each other enough to marry and to commit to spending the rest of their lives together.

I discovered at a point in my relationship with Karen that there was a lot of narcissism in my love and although I did not fully understand it completely at the time, God was patiently teaching me what real love was like. That it was not about me but about the other person and I am ashamed to admit that this has been a lesson I have been slow to learn in my life – to love my wife first and then others without conditions, expectations or manipulation.

And falling in love also involves honesty. I well remember the night that Karen and I took the step of being brave enough to share who we really were with each other. Our feelings were a jumble but it was the best thing we ever did in our relationship. During that time we told each other that we loved one another and we did this because we were both confronted with a choice. Now that we knew more about each other we could walk away or we could accept each other.

This wasn’t necessarily an easy choice for either of us to make, but all these years later we know we made the right one. Neither of us wanted to be another “also ran” in a line people whom we had already been rejected by. No matter how confused our feelings might have been at the time we wanted each other to know that we could count on each other and that we would be there for each other.

That night we fell in love. And that process continues today, because falling in love is not a one off event but a life-long process.

I am still falling in love with Karen and I think that is how it will be for the rest of my life. I don’t think you ever just fall in love once. I think you fall in love with the same person, over and over again.

That is what I think it means to “fall in love”!

Unselfish love must be our aim

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Author Dale Kuehne writes,

“The challenge (of) the twenty-first century is not to use the same old arguments to try to persuade the West of the truth of the traditional teaching on sexual ethics (but neither should we) blindly or reflexively… accommodate the sexual revolution.”

I wrote a few months back that we had moved from “tWorld” (traditional world) to “iWorld” – a world that is dominated by “what is the best way that I can guarantee my personal happiness and also live without the confines of social restraint?”

This has particular bearing on the area of human relationships, especially marriage, given a statistic I read recently: in the United States, depending on which data you read, between 40%-65% of married women are having affairs.

And a website that arranges dates for single people with more traditional beliefs asked its members between the ages of 18 to 59 “Would they sleep with their partner/date before marriage?” A staggering 65% of respondents said yes!

There is no doubt that we have well and truly moved from tWorld to iWorld!

Many people are afraid to admit that they believe in things like chastity before marriage and other long established traditional values associated with sex, relationships and marriage for fear of being called intolerant or outdated. Some perceive that holding to traditional values runs the risk of coming off as being dismissive and uncaring of others and their opinions.

It is important to remember then that caring for people does not mean that one has to accept everything that they say and believe.

There is a beautiful example of this when a woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus for judgement. In the minds of some of her accusers she was deserving of death, as the law of the day dictated. But Jesus shows her mercy by pointing out to the crowd a fact they had conveniently forgotten – they too were guilty of sin and deserving of death. What is often missed however is that when Jesus sends the forgiven woman on her way He does so with the charge to “sin no more”.

Did Jesus display genuine love and care for the woman and her plight? Undoubtedly! But neither did He accept everything that she did.

Finally, when holding to absolute moral ideals it is a good thing to remember that love must always be the aim. It is one thing to decry “how bad things are getting” but quite another to try and walk in the shoes of someone who feels broken.

I believe that keeping yourself sexually pure before and during marriage is the best way to live, but what of the young girl who gives herself sexually to a boy on the promise that he does love her, only to discover that he was lying or the victim of sexual abuse, who does not really understand why they are so promiscuous?

Do we stop to think about people like that before we opening our mouths?

If we love then we will.

So yes, one can uphold absolute moral ideals without being uncaring or dismissive. But if we are to carry the day on the debate over sexual ethics we will only do so by choosing to love, remembering that there are many who have been deeply wounded but also understanding that loving them does not mean accepting everything they say or do.