Keep Your Love On! is about healthy relationships. The goal of any healthy relationship is about building and protecting connection. However, after relating to each other for a while we experience pain and rejection, so often the goal of the relationship becomes about maintaining a “safe” distance, especially with a close relationship like marriage. A healthy relationship needs to have unconditional love at the base. If you can withdraw my love from me in certain situations, then I will have fear in those areas. Fear and love have opposite agendas; fear tries to control or create distance, while love seeks to connect.
Healthy relationships require what Silk calls “powerful people.” Powerful people know that they cannot control what happens to them, and they cannot control other people, but they can control their response. This response can be to love; unconditional love is when I choose to love you regardless of what you do (hence the name of the book). Powerful people value themselves, and they value others, so they only engage with people who value both themselves and them; powerful people insist on both parties being powerful. Powerful people set boundaries based on their priorities, including their emotional health, and enforce them.
In contrast, powerless people feel like they are not in control. They say “I can’t” or “I have to” a lot, since they think that they are not in control. This often takes the form of one of three roles: a bad guy trying to control, a victim waiting for a rescuer, and a rescuer trying to save someone from themselves. However, the victim-rescuer roles are co-dependent, and the bad guy will be ultimately unsuccessful because you can only control yourself, not other people. Powerful people actually refuse to let people take on these unhealthy roles. To a victim they say “what are you going to do about that? What have you tried?” To a controller they say “I would be happy to talk to you when you are willing to respect me.”
A large part of any relationship is communication and conversation. The goal of conversation is to understand the other person; this remains true for conflict. We tend to try to create agreement in conflict, but since you don’t agree, in order to agree one of the people has to disappear. Instead, the goal is to understand each other. What do you need from me? Often we do not even know what we need! A good model for conflict is the “I message,” which is “I feel [emotion] when [situation] and I need to feel [emotion].” For example, “I feel not valued when you ignore me and I need to feel cared for.” Note that if you say “I think...” or “I feel like...” you are probably making a judgment and not an “I message.” The goal is to communicate your heart. It is risky on both the giving and receiving end of an “I message,” but it gives the opportunity for one person to meet the needs of the other. This builds trust as both people realize that the other person will meet their needs, and it builds intimacy as they learn to share their heart. Successfully resolved conflict actually makes relationships stronger.
Healthy relationships also requires taking care of yourself. In order to have fruit from the garden within you to give to others, you need to have boundaries. With no fence, rabbits will eat all the plants and nothing is left, but with a fence, you have to option to give the rabbit something and still have plenty. So powerful people will only relate to people that respect and value them, and will limit how much they give to people. If you give to every rabbit you will have nothing left. Instead, give according to your priorities, which will naturally prioritize the people closest to you. Your spouse obviously has the most access to you, followed by your family, then friends. If an acquaintance’s car breaks down, you might give them the number of your mechanic. If it is a close friend, you might lend them your car while they get it fixed. If it is one of your children, you might pay for the repairs. If it is your wife’s car, you might ask her what color their new car will be.
Not everyone wants to relate to you in a healthy way; some want to consume from you. Since you can only control yourself, powerful people set boundaries by stating what they will do. “I’m sorry, I’m going to my kid’s soccer game on Friday.” “I would like to talk with you to resolve this when you are willing to talk in a respectful tone.” A man in Silk’s congregation had his wife leave him one night and needed to talk to Silk. Silk waited until he was back in the office, then called back and said “I can talk with you two weeks from now.” The man was upset that Silk did not call back right away, and then could not meet for two weeks. Silk simply repeated what he was going to do: “I can see you in two weeks, I’ll let you set up a time with my assistant.” Say yes to your priorities and no to everything else.
Our responsibility in life is to learn to love others. It is what God will evaluate us on. The church is often afraid of sin and wants a clean-looking place. The thing is, people are messy. Fortunately, God knew that people were going to be messy before He even created us, so clearly He is ok with the mess. Trying to keep our church leaders looking perfect is like trying to have cows hold in their manure; sooner or latter they will explode and then everyone will be dirty. If the church can really love people despite their messes, though, the results will be amazing.
Keep Your Love On! is an excellent book (much better than this review). Silk has written one of those rare books that is easily readable, comprehensive, insightful, and concise. I am impressed at how he gets to the heart of the issues and covers an entire topic in a few chapters. For example, there are only three chapters on boundaries; Henry Cloud has a popular book Boundaries, and I am curious what he says, because Silk’s explanation seems so comprehensive, yet so simple, that there is not much left to say. Being comprehensive, insightful, and concise are rare, and only come from a mastery of the material. This is a book that has the timeless element of core principles comprehensively discussed, which makes this a 100 year book. The fact that it is quite readable by a general audience only makes it that much more impressive.
Chapter 1: Powerful People, Powerful Relationships
- Danny often calls his wife “my chosen, Sheri” to emphasize to her that he is continuing to choose her.
- The foundation of relationships is “I choose you.” Relationships based on “you chose me” are fragile (what happens when “you” appear to not be choosing me now?)
- Powerful people make choices and take responsibility for them. They are in control of their lives. Powerless people feel like they cannot control their lives; this is often revealed in the use of “I can’t” or “I have to,” which effectively shifts the blame to someone or something else.
- Powerless people approach relationships to consume.
- There are three types of roles powerless people play (often switching roles):
- Rescuer: rescue others from themselves
- Victim: looks for a rescuer
- Bad guy: uses control or intimidation
- Powerless people do not feel safe in relationships that they do not control.
- Powerful people know that they are in control of how their response. They refuse to be victims. Their choice to love is not affected by the other person.
- Powerful people do not enable the victim mentality. Instead, they ask “What will you do about that? What have you tried? What else could you try?” (26)
- Powerful people can be consistently the same person, because their choices are not affected by others.
- To become powerful, you may need to repent of believing that you are powerless. Renounce the lie and ask the Holy Spirit to show you the truth.
Chapter 2: Turn Your Love On
- Narrative about a couple who comes in for how to handle their rebellious son, and Danny starts leading them through their marriage issues, since that is probably what is causing their son’s behavior.
- What is the goal of your marriage (relationship)? It could be connection, but after repeated hurts, the goal might become keeping a certain amount of distance.
- All relationships have as a goal either connection or disconnection. You can tell by the skillset that you use.
- To connect well with people, they need to feel loved. Find out their love language and do it; failing to communicate in their love language leaves them feeling unloved.
Chapter 3: The Battle Between Fear and Love
- Generally people unconsciously decide to stop loving each other in reaction to a fear of pain.
- Fight, flight, or freeze is an attempt to put distance between yourself and what you fear.
- We are afraid of rattlesnakes and use control techniques around them. If you fear pain with people, you will use the same techniques, but while nobody is looking for connection with rattlesnakes, control does not build connection with people.
- Fear-based reactions are instinctual, so to live otherwise involves a conscious choice (and training a habit).
- You cannot control other people. Even God, who could, does not: He gave Adam and Eve a choice in the garden; the Fall is proof that God doesn’t want to control us.
- God is always moving toward us with love and giving us the choice to respond back with love.
- “as long as we operate out of fear, we will inevitably continue to reproduce distance and disconnection in our relationships with God, others, and ourselves. The cycle can only be broken by repenting from the lie that we can control other people and by accepting the truth that we must control ourselves.” (52)
- “Fear and love have opposite agendas and opposite strategies for achieving them. They cannot coexist in a person, relationship, or culture.” (52).
- God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind. (2 Tim 1:7) There is no fear in love; perfect love casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18)
- To win the battle of fear and love, you need to make these two commitments:
- “It’s my job to control myself. I do not get to control other people.” (54) You get to be you, and I get to be me.
- “My number-one priority in relationships is building and protecting connection.” (54)
Chapter 4: Building Healthy Relationships
- Danny and Sheri took a compatibility test before they got married, and they had no connection at all, plus between their two parents (+ stepparent), there were fifteen marriages. Their pastor somehow didn’t tell them, and after ten years of hell, they now have a great loving marriage, which is a testimony to the power of deciding to unconditionally love someone.
- “Unconditional love says, ‘No matter what you do, I am going to pursue the goal of connection with you.’” (63)
- However, that does not mean that you accept their behavior. Gives a (fictional?) example: his son steps in dog poop outside, so he says “I love you, but that has to stay outside. You can take off your shoes or wipe it off, but you can’t come in to my house with that. Take your time, I love you.” The goal is to separate his son from the mess. This is not controlling other people—it is controlling yourself, who you let in to your house.
- Unconditional love is the foundation of a healthy relationship. Conditional love means that there are circumstances where you would withdraw your love, which produces fear in the other person around those areas.
- Seven pillars of healthy relationships (built on the foundation of unconditional love and holding up the roof of peace, hope, and joy:
- Love: this is a commitment (I care about your body, soul, spirit, dreams, destiny), action (demonstrating your care), and result (they feel loved). Love should produce safety, peace, and trust in your relationship
- Honor: honor is given, not expected. “True honor is the practice of two powerful people putting one another before themselves, empowering one another, working together to meet one another’s needs, and adjusting as necessary in order to move together toward the shared goal of the relationship. Honor is also the practice of calling out the best in each other,” (67) either in encouragement or correction (“you are too awesome to be doing that, please stop it.”)
- “When honor is expected or even demanded, it becomes just another word for handing the control, power, and value over to one person in the relationship. A relationship where one person has all the power is one of dishonor, not honor.” (66)
- His son was living on his own, mostly unemployed, and not looking very hard for a job. So he said he wasn’t going to continue helping financially. His son said it was really hard to get a job; he said “Son, you are Taylor Silk. You can do whatever you want to do. Remember who you are. If you want a job, you can get a job.” (67)
- Honor lets us value and believe in people even when they show that they are different that we are, or make mistakes.
- Self-control requires a goal that we set ourselves; serving another person’s goal is not self-control.
- “When two people show each other that they are able to control themselves on a consistent basis, they demonstrate that they are reliable and trustworthy.” (68) Lack of self-control creates doubt about whether a person will follow through.
- People say they want someone trustworthy, but often what they mean is “being able to anticipate what you will do,” which leads to mistrust.
- “I don’t demand your trust; I display trust by telling you the truth. I crack open my chest and show you what is going on inside of me. I choose to show you what I am experiencing in my relationship with you, no matter what. Each time I do that, I leave you with good information, and you get to make better decisions because you can now see me.” (71)
Chapter 5: Communication: Exchanging the Truth Inside
- “Communication exposes what is going on inside the human heart. Jesus said, ‘For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.’ If your heart, your internal reality, is governed by fear, then you are going to telegraph that through your body language, facial expressions, words, and tone. Conversely, if your heart is governed by faith, hope, and love, you will release this reality through what you say and how you say it. If your heart is governed by fear, then much of what you communicate is actually designed to hid what is really going on inside. You hold back, pretend something doesn’t hurt, or act happy when your heart is breaking in an attempt to avoid the pain that being ‘real’ can inflict.” (81)
- Four styles of communication:
- Passive [bad]: the core belief is that you are more important than me. These people try to absorb hurts, and justify it by trying to keep the peace and being patient, but really it is just avoiding the pain of vulnerability in telling the truth.
- Aggressive [bad]: the core belief is that I matter more than you. They know how to get what they want, and because they are loudest and most forceful, usually they get it. The passive and the aggressive often end up in a relationship, because they agree that the aggressive one is the most important and the other is not. In the end, though, the passive person gives themselves away until there is nothing left, while the aggressive person is unsatisfied.
- Passive-aggressive [bad]: the core belief is that you matter, well, not actually. It is the worst of both that passive and aggressive communication, and involves deceit, manipulation, and subtle punishments. Someone in a relationship with a passive-aggressive person often has a hard time getting people from the outside to understand what is going on, because the passive-aggressive person seems really good on the outside.
- Assertive [good]: the core belief is that you are important and I am important. They don’t have relationships with people who don’t value themselves or value them. They understand what they are feeling and communicate it. They insist on having both people in the conversation be powerful people.
- To a passive person, they say: what are you going to do about that?
- To an aggressive person they say: I’ll be happy to talk to you when you are willing to be respectful.
- To a passive-aggressive person they say: Let’s talk later when you’ve chosen to be respectful and to tell me what you are really feeling.
- The goal of conversation is understanding not agreement.
- If agreement is the goal, they you will end up trying to get the person to agree with you, and will probably saying things that damage the relationship, like “it’s not logical to feel that way.”
- If agreement is the goal, one person must disappear.
- When we tell people our needs, then they have the opportunity to meet those needs, and the person feels loved. After many years of marriage, his wife realized she had a need to be protected by him. It took a while for him to accept this, but once he did and started meeting that need, their relationship flourished.
- In counseling, people come in with emotions everywhere, and he and his wife often ask, “what do you need?” Often the people don’t even know, and how can you resolve the issue until you know what you need?
Chapter 6: The Trust Cycle
- We were designed for trust. Babies’ question is “can I trust the world?” Pretty much all they have is needs at the beginning. When they express a need (by crying) and then get that need met, they learn that they can trust the world. When children learn that they cannot trust, it stunts their ability to relate. Gang members, divorced people, etc. usually come from broken families themselves.
- Trust can be broken by the person not identifying their need, by the other person not responding to the need, or if they respond negatively, or if the need ends up not getting met.
- There many lies that create an expectation for unmet needs: “God doesn’t love me.” “No one loves me.” “There’s something wrong with me, and that’s why I’m unworthy of love.” “That person would never love me if they really knew me.” “I don’t deserve to have my needs met.” (97)
- When you can’t trust people to get your needs met, and you expect you won’t get your needs met, you learn how to live in such a way that some of your needs get met. Unfortunately, this creates a reality where your needs are not met, you are not love, and your relationships are short-term. This is essentially the orphan spirit. (98)
- “You simply can’t build a strong bond of trust without being able to communicate and meet one another’s 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.” (99)
- “[God designed us] to get our needs met from relational exchange.” (99) This is how He operates: obviously He knows our needs, but he gives us the tools to express those needs to Him. Our relationships with people function this same way.
- Communicate “I messages”: “I feel [emotion] when [describe experience] and I need to feel [emotion].” (101)
- If you say “I think...” or “I feel like...” you are probably about to say a judgment statement, which is essentially communicating that you are too scared to really show what is really going on inside of you.
- Examples of “I messages” are “I feel scared when you drive this fast. I need to feel safe and protected when I am in the car with you,” “I feel hurt when you talk to me like that,” and “When you hit the wall in anger, I feel scared.” (102)
- If someone is giving you an “I message,” you need to honor their need and vulnerability, and make adjustments in yourself to meet the need and protect the trust. This also takes vulnerability.
- Intimacy is knowing that I can see into you, and you can see into me, it is safe, and I can be me. “Intimacy in a safe place brings euphoria.” (103) “If acceptance brings euphoria, then rejection brings shame and heartbreak. And by the time most of us reach adulthood, we have had enough painful experiences with rejection that risking our hearts is a serious struggle and one most of us avoid at all costs. The lie that we are inherently unworthy to be loved convinces many of us that hiding is our only option. And because we’re hiding, we want everyone else to hide, too. Ever since sin entered the world and humanity became disconnected from God, we have been looking for ways to get our needs met outside of relationship or any scenario where we are required to be vulnerable and risk our hearts. We have always desperately sought the benefits of intimacy without wanting to pay the price. And the enemy continues to offer us the euphoric experiences we think we can control—things like alcohol, drugs, sex, [pornography], shopping, carbohydrates, adrenaline, or cash. ... [In addition to ugly repercussions,] whenever you try to get your needs met through control, you end up being controlled and addicted. You lose your freedom. You enter into bondage that prevents the pain you are trying to self-medicate from ever being healed.” (103-4)
Chapter 7: Communicating in Conflict
- List of relationship tools on p. 108; summary of the book so far.
- If you have relationships, you will have conflict. Successfully resolved conflict actually makes the relationship stronger.
- Communicating how you are feeling and what your needs are is often as much work as going to the gym, but it builds a strong connection and prevents a lot of conflict. You can’t just coast when things are good, though, you need to keep doing it.
- Jesus actually created points of conflict (“you must eat my body and drink my blook”) to ensure that his disciples had a strong relationship.
- Conflict gets ugly when someone is afraid, usually afraid that you don’t care about them.
- Asking “what do you need?” is a good way of going around their fear, showing that you do care about them.
- Often people communicate a solution instead of a problem, because they are afraid you won’t care about the problem.
- In a respectful conversation, one person (the speaker) is communicating their thoughts, feelings, and needs; the other person (the listener) is listening and reflecting those thoughts back to them so they can be sure that they understand.
- The listener communicates that the conversation is about the speaker and the speaker’s needs, and that the listener is there to understand and figure out how to meet the needs.
- The listener is actually the winner; they get two pieces of information: what the speaker needs and what the listener needs to do. (For instance, he may learn that she doesn’t need flowers, that she needs to feel loved. Which may or may not involve flowers.)
- A listener with a servant’s heart is an amazing force for connection.
Chapter 8: Levels of Intimacy
- Not everyone gets the same amount of access to you. People in your more intimate circles should get more complete access. Some people see it as ministry to be giving themselves away to people who are relatively fringe, but this results in being stretched.
- The most intimate level is the God-spot. Obviously, only God belongs in the place which gives complete and total access. Your spouse is a close second. Then children, close friends, etc.
- Sometimes events change people’s levels. When you get married, your best friends have to move out of the second-place spot. If someone is divorced, their children might be in second place, but someone who gets re-married and says “you need to understand, my children will always be the most important to me,” is forcing their spouse to be in submission to their children (which doesn’t end well).
- We are called to love all people, but that does not mean giving all people equal access. You might pray for al-Qaeda, but you would not invite them into your house.
- If someone close to you hurts you and refuses to clean up their mess, you probably need to put them further out. Love them, but at a distance.
- Example of relating to different levels. The person’s car’s engine dies.
- A stranger at church: I might pray for them for provision.
- An acquaintance at church: I might give them the number of my mechanic.
- A good friend: I might let them borrow my car until they got theirs fixed.
- One of my children: I might write a check for them to get it fixed.
- My wife: “what’s the color of the new car we’re buying?”
- Saying yes to the people in your circles involves saying no to other people. Even Jesus did it: when Jairus came to ask Jesus to heal his daughter, there were other people wanting healing, but Jesus’ yes to going with him was a no to all the other people.
Chapter 9: Guidelines for Setting Limits
- Many people sit there hoping their problems will go away or that a rescuer will somehow appear.
- Cycle of control: “the bad guy controls the victim, the victim controls the rescuer, and the rescuer controls the bad guy. But who wins in the end?” (136)
- Waiting for a rescuer is actually powerlessness.
- God is always telling us how He loves us. If we can’t hear Him, then something is blocking it, for example, unforgiveness and bitterness.
- We need to make sure we tend the garden of ourselves that God has given us.
- If we don’t have fruit in our garden, how are we going to give anything to someone else?
- On airplanes, they always tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others; you cannot help someone if you are unconscious...
- If we don’t take care of our garden, we are going to be needing help ourselves.
- “If you truly want to be loving and unselfish, you will take the time and effort to get your garden producing the best fruit possible so that you can offer something valuable to others. You will invest in learning all there is to know about the garden God has given you—from your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health to your education, talents, gifts, callings, finances, relationships, and more—and how to make it flourish. And as you share your life with others, you will be doing what you need to do to protect and sustain your garden’s productivity so that your health and the health of your relationships are not threatened.” (139)
- You only connect yourself with people who value you.
- Some people value you, but want to consume from you. You need to have good boundaries with these people. They may not be asking for much, but if you have enough nibblers, you can be nibbled into an unhealthy place, which often results in bitterness. The good thing is, if you have a fence around your garden, you can give a carrot to the rabbits without it being a problem.
- It can be difficult to set boundaries with people close to you, but it is essential to avoid codependency.
- Codependency is saying I will work harder on your problem than you will.
- If one of Silk’s children had a drug problem, he would continue to love them. Before their (hypothetical) problem, he trusted them to take things from the fridge, but now he might change the locks on the doors to keep them from selling the TV to pay for drugs. “I am responsible for setting up boundaries so they do not consume my time, energy, and resources beyond a healthy level.” (144)
- A great way to set boundaries is to tell people what you are going to do: “I’m taking my kid to play baseball that evening.” “Saturday is my day for rest and family.” You can’t control other people, but you can control yourself.
- These tell people “This is where I’m pointing my resources. I love you, but I can give you what you are asking from me at this moment because I have other priorities.” (145)
- One of Silk’s congregation members had his wife walk out of the house and leave a post-it note in the refrigerator. He left Silk a voicemail wanting to talk immediately. Silk had committed that evening and the next to his family, so two days later he called the man back. The man wanted to know if he had been sick, since it had been two days. “No, I was playing baseball with my son. I’m available to meet anytime on [date].” “But that’s two weeks away!” “Yes, it is. I can meet you then. I will transfer you to my assistant to schedule a time on that date.”
- “Every ‘yes’ [to your priorities] needs to be backed up with action and a clear ‘no’ to everything else.” (147)
- Jesus said “no,” too. Silk uses the example that Jesus was actually going to walk by his disciples struggling on the lake, until they called out to him.
- Don’t get trapped in saying “yes” to something that escalates into consuming more of your resources than originally expected.
- One woman decided she would not participate in any conversation that was not respectful. So the next time her husband started yelling at her, she calmly said that she wanted to resolve the issue, but only when he was ready to do it in a respectful way, and walked out. Her husband got really mad, but over time, as she was consistent, he learned that she did want to resolve things but was not going to put up with disrespectful conversations. He started changing his tone, and they both prefer it much better this way.
Chapter 10: Did You Learn to Love?
- “Many of the Church’s evangelistic efforts have been directed toward getting people into a building where they can be cleaned up and reformed out of their sinful lifestyles. Unfortunately, the methods used for this “clean up” process are nothing more than the old “rattlesnake” tools of religion—fear, control, and punishment. Once people get “saved,” they find out that despite what they heard about the cross, everyone in church is still freaked out by sin. It’s hard to go out and love sinners like Jesus did when you’re still afraid of your own sin. This is why many churches are failing to make a significant impact in their cities.” (152)
- The church seems to think that we need to be a holy place, a clean place. That’s like trying to have a ranch where the cows don’t poop. “Imagine a rancher saying, ‘Oh yeah, we taught the cows to walk around with their tails between their legs. We have officially created a manure-free farm right here and our cows are permanently clean!’ Trust me, manure-free cows go against nature. And eventually one of them will, well, ... KABOOM! This is what happens in the Church. We create a false expectation based on an illusion [of sinlessness], because we are so afraid of people’s mistakes. Then our leaders occasionally just go KABOOM and get their mess all over everything. But we never say, ‘Oh yeah, now I get it, you’re a person too. Welcome to the ranch.’ We say, in horror and shock, ‘See, that’s why we are afraid of people right there. Now, everybody is hurt and smelly.’” (154)
- God is okay with mess. He knew there was going to mess from before the beginning. His solution is for the cross to separate us from our mess.
- The only way the church is the amazingly safe, healthy place that God designed is if we love one another like Jesus loved us (Jesus’ main commandment).
- In fact, this is how we know we love God, that we love one another.
- “A lot of people think that if they’re using their spiritual gifts, they must have a relationship with God. But gifts can be used outside of connection. Gifts can be used without love. The sign that you are in relationship with Jesus is that you love people—period.” (155) If you don’t know how to be intimate with other people, to open yourself to other people, and try to be “spiritual” with just your gifts, you can’t. We are called to relationship.
- “The whole nature of relationship is that you cannot control it. All you can control is your free choice to love others and receive their love. When you make this choice, freedom grows and fear goes. The sign that you really have love in your relationships is that you and the people around you are free and not scared.” (156)
- Our only responsibility in this life is to learn how to love others. It is the only thing God can’t do for you.
- Silk heard a man talk about being struck by lightning. He died, went to Heaven, and God asked him if he had learned how to love others. The man said, “no.” So God gave him another try. Note that God did not ask him if he had given his money to the poor, or if he had done miraculous healing, or even brought people to the Lord.
- There was a racehorse named Secretariat who completely outpaced all his competitors. When he died, the veterinarians discovered that his heart was three times larger than other horses! Imagine what would happen if Christians had a heart three times bigger than people of the world!