-the state of being familiar with something
-the state of having knowledge about something
-a friendly and informal way of acting or talking
There’s an old, well-known expression regarding familiarity. You may never have said it, but I’m certain you’ve heard it.
“Familiarity breeds contempt.”
In other words, the more we get to know someone, the more apt we are to notice their faults, flaws, and freaky mannerisms. Their shining armor becomes tarnished. It’s not like we try and find something to pick at; it just happens. Their jokes are no longer funny, their apologies sound like hollow, empty words, and their table manners are abhorrently disgusting.
The honeymoon is over.
What happened? We were never bothered or irritated before when they told their jokes. Why now? Is it just because we’ve been together too long? Is that why it seems as though we’ve grown apart?
I’d say no. Probably not.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things that should be changed.
Familiarity breeds, not necessarily contempt, but slothfulness; i.e.- laziness.
I’ve noticed this in my own life: in the different places I’ve worked, and in the various relationships I’ve had through the years.
Who’s the person who normally gets the brunt of our grumpiness? People to whom we’re supposedly the closest to.
Professional drivers can, at times, let their focus on safety become slack. After all, they’ve driven the same road over a thousand times, and without incident. So what if they are driving a little fast, or the road’s a little wet. They know what they’re doing.
Until the crash that claims their life, or the life of someone else
A letter carrier, walking the same route everyday, house to house, can become so used to their surroundings they never notice when something changes. I know a guy who, after walking the same route, months on end, walked into the raised tailgate of a minivan. Cracked his head wide open.
Never saw it. He allowed familiarity to blind him.
Another guy tripped over a rock. Someone had changed the landscaping but the carrier didn’t see the change. He was blinded by familiarity. He quit looking. And broke his ankle.
Have you ever owned something brand new? You were its first owner. Remember how cautious you were with it? Careful! You don’t want it scratched, or messed up in any way.
At least for the first few months.
But, after a while…
A lot of the problems husbands and wives face stem from this thing called familiarity; not because the honeymoon is over.
No, generally familiarity leads to…
Laziness. Slothfulness in the way we look at people, treat loved ones, or even take care of ourselves.
Laziness in communication. No longer thrilled to spend a quiet evening with family; it’s just too boring.
And one day our world crashes in. Or we walk into a raised minivan tailgate.
Or our spouse walks out of our life for good. Or…
Familiarity can breed contempt. It can mark the beginning of an end. It can spell danger.
Yet familiarity isn’t a bad thing, because real intimacy grows from such closeness.
Familiarity is the outgrowth of shared experiences, even tragic experiences.
It’s easy to share nice, feel good experiences with someone you love. It doesn’t take much effort to enjoy the company of someone you’re physically and emotionally attracted to.
Familiarity is fun in those cases. Wouldn’t you agree?
But sooner or later, at some point in our lives, we’ll find ourselves in the familiar company of someone who irritates the daylight out of us. It may even be our spouse!
And yes, we may need a little space in order to return to some semblance of sanity. But let’s keep our eyes, and our heart, on the prize; the prize of intimacy with people we truly care about.
People we love.
Let’s endeavor to maintain intimacy with God, our spouse, our family and loved ones, in the bond of peace; regardless of the work involved.
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3 NKJV)
Familiarity breeds contempt?
It doesn’t have to.
And it won’t, if we will do our part.