Danny Silk. 2013. Keep Your Love On: Connection, Communication, and Boundaries. Sacramento: Loving On Purpose (publisher).
Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra
The intrusion of technology into our lives has increased the time spent interacting with machines and reduced the time spent interacting with people. Because developing healthy relationships take time, the reallocation of time away from development of healthy relationships has contributed to declining civility and increasing violence, both at home and in public places. Against this rather bleak environment, an emerging role for the church in these postmodern times has been to teach the basic relational and social skills that can no longer be assumed to exist: enter Danny Silk.
In his book, Keep Your Love On, Danny Silk starts by writing:
“I wrote this book to help people build, strengthen, and heal their relational connections.” (11)
Silk sees three themes as components of healthy relationships—connection, communication, and setting boundaries (12)—and he structures his book around these three themes. Let me turn to each of these themes in turn.
Connection. Silk starts his discussion of connection by distinguishing powerful people from powerless people, writing:
“You need to be a powerful person. Powerful people take responsibility for their lives and choices. Powerful people choose who they want to be with, what they are going to pursue in life, and how they are going to go after it.” (20)
Being powerful is important in relationship because:
“A healthy, lasting relationship can only be built between two people who choose one another and take full responsibility for that choice.” (20)
Powerless people are driven by fear and anxiety in making choices and look to other people to fill in for their perceived lack of power (21-24); powerful people realize that they can only control themselves and do not look to others to solve their problems (25). Consequently, it is powerless people who feel a need to role-play as victims, villains, or rescuers (23), because these roles focus on sharing power that powerless people feel they lack, as Silk writes:
“Powerless people use various tactics, such as getting upset, withdrawing, nagging, ridiculing, pouting, crying, or getting angry, to pressure, manipulate, and punishing one another into keeping their pact” [in being victims, villains, or rescuers] (24).
Real love is a challenge for powerless people because being deeply insecure in themselves they approach relationships as consumers (21) who have trouble being full partners in relationships … Obviously, a lot more can be said about the subject of connection and relationships.
Communication. Silk sees communication as a transaction between the inner and outer life, citing Jesus:
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45 ESV; 81)
Silk sees powerful people insisting on assertive communication where: “My thoughts, feelings, and needs matter and so do yours” (86), not motivated by fear. Powerless people are governed by fear, trying “to hide what is really going on inside” (81), not able or willing to communicate on an equal basis. Instead, powerless people adopt a passive communication style (you matter, I don’t), an aggressive style (I matter, you don’t), or a passive aggressive style (you matter, but not really) (82-84).
Silk offers some helpful advice on dealing with these three powerless, communication styles:
“A powerful assertive communicator responds to a passive person with, ‘What are you going to do about it?’ They respond to an aggressive person with, ‘I can only talk with you when you decide to be respectful.’ And they respond to a passive aggressive person with, ‘We can talk later when you choose to be responsible and tell me what is really going on.’” (87)
Clearly, not everyone starts out as an assertive communicator—Silk himself admits that he started out as a passive communicator married to an aggressive communicator. Because he had to learn to be an assertive communicator paying attention to the needs of others, there is hope for the rest of us.
Boundaries. Silk begins his discussion of boundaries by observing:
“…not everyone should have the same access to you. You are responsible to manage different levels of intimacy, responsibilities, influence, and trust with people in your life.” (124)
Silk starts by recounting several stories about Christians who did not understand this issue of levels of intimacy and counters these stories by observing that “Jesus prioritized certain relationships over others”, as in (most intimate) =>God the Father=>John=>Peter, James, and John=> the twelve disciples=>other disciples=>spectators=>everyone else (125). He goes on to state:
“I love lots of people through my ministry. I counsel them, pray with them, laugh with them, and cry with them. But that’s it. They don’t get the bulk of my time, attention, or money. They don’t get to know my heart and influence my decisions. After our few hours together, I leave those people at church and go home to my family and close friends.” 128-129)
This insight into Silk’s own relationships might come as a shock to many Christians who have trouble establishing such priorities and maintaining them, especially Silk’s comment about the “God-spot” (126), reserved only for God—not spouse, not work, not kids, not political causes, and so on. You get the idea—if not, remember how the Ten Commandments start out:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exod 20:2-6)
Danny Silk’s book, Keep Your Love On, is an important resource for church groups, readable, and interesting. Before I had finished the first 20 pages, I started thinking of all the people that I would like to share this book with, especially newlyweds and family members. Read it; discuss it; share it. You will be glad that you did.