Prior to World War One, the French thought they were secure behind the Maginot Line. This was a series of forts, bunkers, trenches and fixed defences designed to keep the Germans (and anyone else) out of the foie gras. Actually, the Germans and anyone else hungry enough who planned to attack from the east.
It failed. Miserably.
We too have personal Maginot Lines. Living in a world in which we maintained no defences against the cruelties of others would leave us bruised and timid before sundown. And the truth is that the people who end up closest to us are often the ones who can be most damaging, precisely because they know us.
To know someone is to understand what their defences are defending against, and where the weak points of that defense lie. Allowing someone behind the lines gives them the key to destroying them. The trick is knowing whether they’re a spy or really on our side.
This is the reason we need time to get to know someone with whom we plan to get close. To begin, our instinct will be to maintain the defensive posture. Gradually, as we get to see the other person’s character, we’ll step aside and not man the walls all the time. A person’s actions are critical – when people demonstrate honesty, fidelity and straightforwardness, it’s infinitely better than them mouthing the words. And life takes time to provide opportunities for someone to shine. There’s no hurrying circumstance.
Breaking down the bravado is a multi-step, multi-year process, because we need to be certain we’re not committing emotional suicide. You don’t want to commit emotional suicide, do you?