Danny Silk: Expressing our needs

This is great, taken from Keep Your Love On, by Danny Silk:

Expressing our needs and building relational connections are closely intertwined—in fact; they are completely dependent on one another.

The level of communication we need to reach in order to build a strong relational connection is the level where we express our needs to one another. You simply can’t build a strong bond of trust without being able to communicate and meet one another’s needs.

If you cannot communicate your needs to another person clearly, it is obviously going to be very difficult for that person to meet them. That’s why one of the primary tasks of reaching maturity is learning how to express thoughts, feelings, and needs. Those who never learn this skill, however, expect relationships to function without it. They say things like, “Well, if you love me, then you will just know what I need. Didn’t you notice that that bothered me? Haven’t you been paying attention? I can’t believe you don’t know that about me.”

Where does this desire or expectation that loved ones have a telepathic ability to know our feelings and needs come from? It comes from powerlessness and fear. It comes from dreaming that everything will turn out magically without actually having to communicate. Powerless people want to win the lottery, get their dream girl/guy with minimal effort, lose weight without exercise, and get their needs met without ever having to say a word.

Yeah, well…powerless people, prepare yourselves for what I’m about to tell you:  It just doesn’t work that way.

The reason we can’t get our needs met without expressing them is that we were designed to have our needs met through a relational exchange. God made us this way. This is how He meets our needs. Think about it. God, the one Person in the universe who knows all things, and knows us incomparably better than we know ourselves, never says, “Well, obviously I know your needs, so you don’t need to tell me about them.”  Instead, He repeatedly tells us to ask Him for what we need, and gives us some of the most profound, beautiful, and honest language for doing so—like the Lord’s Prayer, and most of the Psalms. He won’t meet our needs outside of a connection where we have to turn up and crack our hearts open to Him, because that very connection is what we need to have our needs met in the first place.

If God Himself respects our prerogative as individuals to make our feelings, needs, and desires known to Him in a relationship, then we may take it that this is how He designed us to relate with one another. In a respectful relationship, each person understands, “I am responsible to know what is going on inside me and communicate it to you. I do not expect you to know it, nor will I allow you to assume that you know it. And I will not make assumptions about what is going on inside you.”

Conversely, the belief that other people can know you, or that you can know others, without needing to willingly disclose your hearts to one another is inherently disrespectful, and will lead you to act in ways that damage trust. As long as you believe this, the line of demarcation between your life and another person’s life will remain fuzzy, leading you to avoid taking responsibility for communicating what is going on inside you, and to wrongly take responsibility for telling other people what is going on inside them.

Unfortunately, this wrong belief infects most relational communication. So many people think, “If I’m in a relationship with you, then I get to tell you about you.” Yet what inevitably happens when they act on this?

“Here, let me tell you about you. This is what you are thinking and feeling. This is what you need. These are your motives.”

Comments like this are inherently judgemental, presumptuous, and disrespectful—even if offered in a kind tone and with the best of intentions. And unless the person on the receiving end of such comments knows how to set a boundary with disrespect, he or she will usually go into self-protective mode and either shut down or begin retaliating in kind—“So you’re going to tell me about me, huh? Okay, then I get to tell you about you.” The ensuing duel of judgements is sure to damage any relational connection. If you want to protect your connection and build trust by always communicating respectfully, then your guiding rule must be, “It’s my job to tell you about me, and your job to tell me about you.”

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