Familiarity Breeds Contempt?

More Meditating Out Loud

The old saying tells us that FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTEMPT. As I’ve been meditating on kingdom hospitality this month, I tried to challenge that old proverb. I want to believe that familiarity breeds respect. Familiarity breeds intimacy. Familiarity breeds compassion, understanding, honor, trust.

Maybe those things are also true, but God showed me something today. Here it is, and hold on to your hats! Genius alert! Genius alert!

“The more you get to know someone, the more you think you know them.”

Brilliant, right? I thought so. I made it up!

But seriously, don’t we think that the longer we’ve been around someone, the more we understand their motivations? What makes them tick? Even more dangerous, we are far more willing to let the person with whom are ARe familiar represent a whole group of which they seem to be a part.

Hospitality reminds us that everyone around us is a broken image of God. God is looking out their eyes at us, and that means that no matter how long we’ve been around someone, we must never let ourselves believe that we have encompassed their identity with our understanding. As Christians, we embrace Someone inherently mysterious, and we must learn to see that mystery in everyone we meet.

Love offers our selves to the other without demanding anything from them. Love offers our selves to the other WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY honoring (even revering?) their other-ness. Even after 3 years, even after the resurrection, Jesus is still a stranger to his closest companions. How then can we (who barely understand why the person in our mirror does things!) pretend to understand why others act as they do?

Love HOPES all things!

God is in the new person at your office. Welcome them.

God is in the cranky colleague who has lived in their cubicle for twenty years. Stop pretending to understand them. Love them.

God is in your preacher, when he pleases your ears AND when he makes you uncomfortable.

God is in that old dinosaur of a deacon who hates clapping and loves Leroy Brownlow books. Stop pretending you know why they think what they think.

God is in that “change agent” who sits on your pew and scares you with their ideas about “spirit and truth.” Stop pretending you know why they think what they think.

God is in the stranger that makes you uncomfortable, the young man dating your daughter, the blue-haired young woman on the back pew AND the blue-haired elders’ wives up front.

God is in the people living in the neighborhood you avoid.

God is in the person whom you silently BEG not to sit by you.

Contempt destroys any hope of love. Stop pretending and SEE! And then LOVE!

in HIS love,



About Nick Gill

orphan-poet-adoptee-soldier-prodigal-servant-husband- counselor-desperate seeker after my Father's face "I feel my body weakened by the years as people turn to gods of cruel design. Is it that they fear the pain of death, or is it that they fear the joy of life?" - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Posted on 6 October, 2008, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Think of it this way. Lust and contempt are from the same root–dehumanization (first in the self and the expressed toward the other); the condition in which the necessary other becomes simply the other. Contempt and lust twists the lovely other into an object. If Ps. 23 is a picture of our cup running over, then dehumanizing someone is the essence of human emptiness. Hospitality tends to rehumanize the object. “We” are the necessary other as Kathleen Norris would say. Rehumanizing the “object” doesn’t eliminate the possiblity of lust and contempt but it does open the door to love and service. We hate out of our emptiness. We love out of His fullness pouring into us. We cannot treat others like humans until we become human.

    May God bless you, Nick, as you’ve blessed me.

  2. And it is an even deeper evil to continue to treat others as objects once we’ve become human.

    A TV screen or a computer monitor makes it so much easier to treat humans as objects. Perhaps that is the most insidious danger of images. They turn a human into an object which we own and control, which in turn makes it easier to treat actual humans we meet every day like mere objects.

    Ahh, Ben… you’ve done far more giving than receiving in our relationship. My contact info is on my Facebook page. Call me or write me if I can serve you in some way.

    in HIS love,

  3. Nick … fantastic post. Stepping no my toes here. I needed it.

  4. I hope you’re not under the impression that I’m any good at doing anything BUT stepping on your toes.

    No, wait, that’s not true.

    I’m good at hiding in a corner with my face buried in a book, hoping for contact with others but too scared to take the initiative.

    “There is a difference, Neo, between knowing the path and walking the path.” I’ve got so much knowledge that my head hurts sometimes, but my walking shoes are still in the box.

  5. Nick,
    Wonderful post.
    Keep up the great work you do with your blog.
    It is one of my favs.
    I will be visiting as much as my health allows.
    God bless you and I hope and pray you have a great weekend.

  6. Married 42 years to the same wonderful man and I still don’t know all there is to know and what he thinks and why. And just when I think I’ve figured something out, he surprises me! Loved your meditation – have had the same thoughts – often. My first visit here.

  7. Nick,

    Terrific post! I know I need to remind myself of this all the time.


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