Danny Silk: You cannot control other people

Here is an excerpt from Danny Silk’s book, Keep Your Love On:

If you want to preserve relationships, then you must learn to respond instead of react to fear and pain. Responding does not come naturally. You can react without thinking, but you cannot respond without training your mind to think, your will to choose, and your body to obey. It is precisely this training that brings the best qualities in human beings—like courage, empathy, reason, compassion, justice, and generosity—to the surface. The ability to exercise these qualities and respond gives you other options besides disconnection in the face of relational pain.

Powerful people are not slaves to their instincts. Powerful people can respond with love in the face of pain and fear. This “response-ability” is essential to building healthy
relationships.

In order to begin training yourself to respond in love, the first thing you need to accept is this truth: You cannot control other people. The only person you can control—on a good day—is yourself.

This is a fundamental principle of human freedom. We were designed to be free. How do we know this? God put two trees in the garden. He gave us a choice. Without choice, we don’t have freedom, and more importantly, we don’t have love, which requires freedom. God chose us, loves us, and wants us to choose Him and love Him in return. So He gave us a free choice, even though it necessarily meant risking our rejection and the devastation of a disconnected relationship. The tragedy of the Fall actually proclaims that He does not want to control us. He didn’t control us in the Garden, and He doesn’t control us now.

Many people find this difficult to believe. If you were raised with a powerless, fear-driven mindset based on the belief that you can control people and they can control you, then you will naturally perceive God as a controlling punisher. You will take the laws of the Old Testament—all the verses and stories about wrath, judgement, and the fear of the Lord— and conclude, “See, God wants to control us, and we need to be controlled. Our hearts are desperately wicked and we can’t be trusted, so God uses the threat of punishment to maintain the distance between us and Him.”

The problem is that the Bible doesn’t show us a God who is pursuing the goal of distance between Himself and a bunch of scary sinners.

Instead, the Bible reveals a God who is relentlessly closing that distance and paying the ultimate price to repair the disconnection we created in our relationship. God’s number one goal with us is connection, and nothing—neither pain nor death—will prevent Him from moving toward us and responding to us with love.

His perfect love for us is absolutely fearless. He is not afraid of us, and He never will be. His Gospel message is, “I love you no matter what. I am not afraid of your mistakes, and you don’t have to be afraid of them either. You don’t have to be afraid of other people’s mistakes. They may be painful; many things in this life may be painful. But pain and the fear of pain no longer have the power to control you. You are always free to choose. So, what are you going to do? Remember that I am always here for you, whatever you choose.”

God is continually moving toward you in love and giving you the choice to love Him. He never takes your choices away. 2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” The more God fills your life, the more freedom you end up having.

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From Keep Your Love On, by Danny Silk.

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