Sunday, May 7, 2017

WITH - 11

For the past six months I have been working on a personal project of spiritual growth and theological understanding.  It has been my sojourn to try and unlock some of the secrets of how we are made as human beings, the exact nature of God's relationship with us, some of the problems with what is going on in our American political context right now.  More broadly, what I am interested in, is what is critically wrong with Christianity as we know it in the North American context today.  And so, I have been writing a book.

The book is entitled, "With: The Transformative Power of Going With People Rather Than Against Them".  Over the next several weeks, I will be writing blog posts that will flesh-out aspects of this book.  I want to invite you into the conversation.  I want to get your help in writing this book.  If anything I write over the next several weeks strikes a chord with you in any way, please let me know.  If you, like me, are as interested in unlocking the secrets of God's relationship with us, then perhaps we can embark on this journey together.  What I am after is nothing short of, as Hemingway once said; "writing something true".  And so now, if you are still WITH is installment #11.


Going With Is Often About Giving Up Control

            Most relationships in our world are not completely parallel.  What do I mean by a parallel relationship?  If you think about two lines that are parallel, they are right next to each other, they are right beside one other.  The parallel bars in gymnastics are, for example, two pieces of wood that are at the same height, that are right at the same level.  Neither bar is higher or lower than the other than the other one.  So, a parallel relationship is one in which both people in the relationship are at the same level.  In a parallel relationship, there is no degree of hierarchy or superiority.  Both people are at the same level of power.  This level of equanimity can occur at the financial level, at the physical strength level, on an emotional level, on a spiritual level, or in terms of authority.  An example of a parallel relationship might be a married couple (at least this is the case in most healthy marriagesJ).  A healthy marriage is one in which neither the wife nor the husband has a level of superiority.[1]  Both are at the same level.  Both people in the marriage may have different areas of strength from one another, but on balance there is a parallel relationship.  Another example of a parallel relationship might be two students who go to school together.  Both students are at the same level.  They are both students.  One student may get “A’s” while the other student gets “C’s” but, in the end, they are both students.  An example of an un-parallel relationship might be a boss and a worker, or a powerful political leader and a common citizen.  The boss always has power over worker, and the politician always has power over the common citizen.  These power differentials can often be used to take advantage of the person who is not in power.

Going With another person is often about the simple process of either reversing the power dynamic in a relationship, or at the very least making an effort to cause the relationship to be as parallel as possible.  This role-reversal requires that the person “in charge” make a conscientious decision to allow the person who is not “in charge” to have some level of control in the relationship.  This role reversal, or power reversal, almost never occurs on its own.  It almost always requires a certain level of self-awareness and a desire for equanimity between two people.  However, when one person decides to give up a level of power or authority or control over another person, great examples healing and transformation can occur.

            Simon Sinek is author of the best-selling book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.  He is a motivational speaker and marketing and business consultant.  Sinek’s 2009 TED talk entitled, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” is listed as the third most popular TED presentation of all time.  I recently met up with Sinek in the South Kensington, a suburb of London, to discuss with him an extremely innovative approach that he recently took with a person that he was counseling who was “in trouble” in several aspects of her life.  Sinek had been counseling this woman for about three or four months and nothing was helping.  No amount of talk-therapy was assisting her in any way.  She continued to have the same set of problems week in and week out.  It was always the same story: her relationships were failing, her job wasn’t working out, and her life was a mess.  Then, Sinek decided to try a new counseling approach with her.  It was an experiment.  He decided to do a role reversal, in-order-to give his client a higher level of control.   One day, out of the blue, he said; “Going forward, I to try something new.  I want you to start to counsel me, rather than me counseling you.  I will become your patient.  You will become my counselor.”  His patient was initially totally surprised, but then decided to go along with the idea.  To his amazement, Sinek and his patient noticed an immediate difference.  His client’s problems and life difficulties were slowly but surely going away.  Her relationships were coming back together, her job situation had improved, and she felt healthier, and all-around, more grounded.  Sinek chalks this transformation up to allowing his client to be more in control of her life. 

            What is even more incredible is that Sinek noticed that the therapy and the counseling that his client was giving him was extremely helpful advice.  Sinek said; “The thoughts she had about my life, and the solutions she had to my problems were extremely helpful, and right on the mark.”  He said, “I talked to her just this morning, and she gave me incredibly good advice for the particular problem that I was dealing with.” Sinek pointed out that he looked forward to conversations with his client every single week, and that, to his own shock and surprise, he had benefited as much from the power reversal as his client had. 

            When I asked Sinek for what he thought the reason for his success was, he said that; “The key was that I took the role reversal very seriously.”  He said, “It wouldn’t have worked if we had just been pretending or if we both didn’t see this as a serious dynamic.  We both treated the new arrangement as if it was the real thing, and in a way, it was.”  In the role of a counselor and not the counselee, “She has given me lots of new ideas.  She offers me very good advice.  most of all, it worked because she became in control of her life.  And she no longer thought of herself as a victim”.  Finally, Sinek added; “We are all works in progress.”

            A healthy Go With relationship can often be as simple as allowing the person who you are in relationship with to have more control and power, and, correlatively, for you to have less control power.  The arrangement can be out in the open and talked about (as Sinek did), or it can be more hidden, by simply one person deciding to allow the other person to be in charge.  Going With someone else is often simply a matter of allowing someone else to be in the driver’s seat and you to be in the passenger seat.  Ironically, it may seem that being the “receiver” in a relationship setting is less of a joyful experience than being in the “giver” position.  However, in most cases when a person is allowed to feel the experience of being “in charge”, and when the person who was in charge can experience the sensation of being “out of control” – great transformation can begin to happen!

All For Now,


[1] The non-parallel aspect of a marriage relationship has often been incorrectly viewed from a Biblical standpoint – making the husband superior to the wife.  More about the incorrect Biblical translational reasons for this tendency have been written about in Chapter 7; “Why Going With Is Hard For Men.”

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