Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Danny Silk’s book Keep Your Love On: Connection, Communication and Boundaries (Red Arrow Media, 2013).
In this fallen world where people can be difficult and situations stressful, it’s often challenging to love others. Good intentions often give way to frustrations as we face those challenges, preventing us from achieving the loving relationships we hope to enjoy.
But God chooses to love all people in all circumstances, and his unconditional love can inspire and empower us to choose love in our relationships – no matter what. Loving others even when it’s hard to do so is the most powerful choice you can make as a Christian, because it shows people that God – the source of all love – is really active in the world.
Here’s how you can love others no matter what:
Recognize that you have the power to choose. God will always give you the power you need to choose to love others, no matter what they may say or do. So don’t blame others when you fail to put love in action; realize that you’re not a victim of other people’s choices. Your love is not dependent on whether or not others love you in return. Instead, your love will prevail no matter what when you rely on God to help you act toward others with love.
Commit to the goal of connection in all of your relationships. You’re constantly moving either toward or away from other people as you communicate with them. Even when you don’t intend to move away, your relationships will naturally become more distant if you neglect intentionally moving toward people by communicating loving messages that will draw you closer together. Study the people who are in your life regularly to get to know which of the five love languages (touch, gifts, quality time, acts of service, and words of affirmation) best communicates love to them. Then communicate with them as often as you can in ways that make them feel loved, which will also make them feel connected to you.
Cast fear out of your relationships to welcome love into them. Fear and love have opposite agendas: Fear distances people from each other, while love brings them closer together. Keep in mind that fear comes from the evil side of the spiritual realm, while love comes from God himself. The more fear that you allow to come into your relationships with others, the less love can flow freely in those relationships. God wants you to welcome his love into your relationships fully by casting fear out. You can do so by: responding thoughtfully rather than reacting thoughtlessly to whatever makes you feel afraid when communicating with others, giving up attempts to control other people and focusing instead on controlling your own words and actions, and listening to the Holy Spirit’s guidance about how best to show love to the people you interact with every day. When people hurt you, turn to God for the confidence you need to know that you’ll be okay no matter what, set healthy boundaries with hurtful people, but refuse to stop loving them.
Build healthy relationships using the right foundation and pillars. Develop healthy relationships with others by building them on the foundation of unconditional acceptance and love, and the pillars of love, honor, self-control, responsibility, truth, faith, and God’s vision for each relationship.
Communicate honestly to build trust. Aim for the goal of truth in all the ways you communicate with people. Ask God to help you understand yourself and tell yourself the truth, so you’ll be able to understand others and be honest with them. Set boundaries around your conversations to help them stay respectful, seek to understand people’s needs, and then act in love to meet those needs whenever God leads you to do so. You can create a safe place for intimacy when you and others in relationships with you express needs honestly and respond to those needs by meet them in appropriate ways.
Use conflict to strengthen your connections in relationships. Conflict is inevitable in any relationship, so you can’t avoid it, but you do have the power to respond to it in ways that will strengthen your connections with other people. Whenever you experience conflict in a relationship: get your fear under control by refusing to discuss the issues until both of you are able to respond to each other calmly, rationally, respectfully, and productively; listening carefully; discovering what the other person needs; telling him or her how you’ll try to meet that need; and choosing to believe the best about the other person. You both can then emerge from conflict as more powerful and free people who are more confident in your love for each other and more hopeful about your abilities to meet each other’s needs.
Set boundaries around your relationships to honor yourself and others. Consider the level of intimacy you have with specific people in your life whenever they ask you to invest time and energy into your relationships with them. Keep in mind that the people you’re closest to (such as your spouse, children, and best friends) deserve more of your time and energy than others do. Set boundaries with needy people – just as Jesus did during his time on Earth – in order to prioritize the time and energy God has given you each day according to what would best help you fulfill his purposes for your life. Learn how to say “no” to some people at some times so you’ll be free to say “yes” to the most important pursuits in your relationships. Require respect in all of your relationships. When setting boundaries on behaviors, tell others what you’re going to do instead of telling them what they have to do. Remember that people believe your actions more than they believe your words. Make sure that your choices are defined by the priorities that you have committed yourself to, rather than other people’s choices. The more you set healthy boundaries in your relationships, the more you’ll invite respect, honor, trust, and love into those relationships.
Adapted from Keep Your Love On: Connection, Communication and Boundaries, copyright 2013 by Danny Silk. Published by Red Arrow Media, Redding, Ca., www.redarrowmedia.com.
Danny Silk serves on the senior management team at Bethel Church in Redding, California. He is the director of Global Transformation Institute and oversees the Bethel Staff development. Danny and his wife, Sheri, are the founders of Loving on Purpose Educational Services, a ministry to families and communities worldwide. They have been married for more than 28 years, and have three children and three grandchildren.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.
Publication date: January 13, 2014