The theme song from “Cheers” famously proclaimed, “You wanna where everybody knows your name.” That rings true for a lot of people, it certainly does for me. We really do want to be somewhere where we are known — we want to be accepted.
Do people know you? I mean really know you, not just know about you. The difference is huge. If you knew about me, you might know where I work, how many kids I have, where I went on vacation and so on. But if you really knew me you would know my hopes and dreams, my aspirations and deep regrets. You would know what brings me joy and what breaks my heart, what I am proud of what shames me.
Do you have people in your life who really know you? Social media such as Facebook has made it easy to feel that lots of people know us when, in reality, they only know about us. If you are very lucky you have a few people in your life who really know you, who you can be yourself with.
Our desire to be known, or connected to others at a deep level is one of our deepest needs. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, belonging falls just above our physical needs and our need for safety. Psychiatrist Curt Thompson has it this way:
“While connection may not be our top need for immediate physical survival, our Creator has formed us in such a way that there is nothing more crucial to our long-term welfare. In fact, virtually every action we humans take is part of the deeper attempt to connect with other humans. Even when it terrifies us. Even when we suspect at some inscrutable, preverbal place in our minds that we will be betrayed. Even when we have spent years perfecting our deftness at avoiding connection or carefully protecting ourselves from all but the most controlled forms of it. We find ourselves drawn to it, despite our occasional repulsion by it—especially in relation to particular people.”
[Anatomy of the Soul: Surprising Connections between Neuroscience and Spiritual Practices That Can Transform Your Life and Relationships; Curt Thompson M.D., p 109]
When we allow ourselves to be known by others it can launch an important chain. When we allow ourselves to be knowing by others we begin to know ourselves; we must necessarily start peeling back the masks and false selves we have been building up most of our lives. Knowing ourselves is key to being known by God. To have an authentic relationship with the Lord we must be able to bring our true selves to him; it does no good if we come to the Lord with who we wish we were or think He expects us to be. We have to bring our true selves.
Both Augustine and John Calvin taught that we cannot know God if we do not know ourselves and we can’t really know ourselves without knowing God. When we know God, not just know about God, we can experience His loving compassion toward us. That experience allows us to reflect that love others. That is, we can obey the one commandment Jesus gave his followers: that we love one another (John 13:34, 15:12). We cannot obey that commandment if don’t really know God’s love. Yet it all begins with letting ourselves be known.