marlenaflick

in pursuit of critical and compassionate living and thought. in surrender to courage & delight of Christ.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Black Box?

There’s something in friendship and dating that I call, “The Big Black Box.”

A “black box” is a term we use in research to describe the missing explanation in a relationship between causes and effects that make their connection actually make sense. It refers to the hidden variables in the middle that make the relationship work. The thing is, if you assume too much and get these variables wrong, you could very well end up quite surprised when the relationship stops working or goes as unexpected.

The black box in personal relationships is scary.

“The Big Black Box” as I call it, is that internal space in the other person, and between you and them, that you just can’t know. Its all the things they will never tell you because they didn’t think it mattered, didn’t even know about themselves, or liked that you didn’t once you found out. Its all the things you thought you understood, but you couldn’t know the root causes of, or what they would turn into. They are those thoughts, beliefs, quirks, triggers, fears and internal monsters that we all have that you just can’t fully know about someone, maybe not even yourself. Its the space between “knowing” and “thinking you knew” a person. You know its there, you just don’t know when you might find out what’s in it or how big it is.

But it can get smaller, or at least less scary.

The Big Black Box is where true intimacy is borne. When you enter someone’s Big Black Box – with all their heeby-geeby insecurities, half-baked dogmatic thoughts, different beliefs, and lifelong assumptions – you actually get to know a person. You learn what makes them tick, what makes them real.

Perhaps the scarier thing is this: in order to enter someone’s black box, you have to earn trust, and this is usually done by leading in vulnerability. In other words, you have to open up your black box first. The first step then, would be to start look inwards to get to know yourself. This involves courage and humility. The next step? Don’t hide. You don’t necessarily have to start by opening up your life story to everyone, but you do have to be brave enough to be honest about your imperfections, bold enough to share your true self, real beliefs, and opinions. We all know a guarded or fearful person when we see one. We don’t know it, we just feel it. These people don’t look stoic. They come across as unsafe. Unsafe because we intuitively recognize that a person unwilling to show themself cannot empathize with others. You create a safe place for people in your presence when you live your life with bravery and brokenness, especially in your relationships.

You may never know all that’s in your black box, or what your black box looks like to others. It takes others to know it. But as you let others enter in, you will understand yourself better and with greater humility.

The good news for relationships? When you work through each other’s black boxes together, you learn to grow in grace both for yourself and the other. As masks get put down, so does our pride. You grow in the sweetness of intimacy, and you experience the safety of mutual, imperfectly grown trust. This is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

“But perfect love casts out fear” – 1 John 4:18

 


Sometimes we do find in other people’s black boxes things that we really aren’t compatible with, or in wisdom able at a time to walk through with someone. You don’t owe everybody intimacy. And not everybody owes you theirs. Be courageously loving, but honour wisdom, who you are, and your limitations – especially before commitments.

 

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This entry was posted on September 21, 2016 by in relationships & identity, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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