(This is the second blog in our Month of KYLO series! If you’re reading Keep Your Love On with us, this corresponds to Chapters 3 and 4.)
Over the years, I have interacted with hundreds of people dealing with some kind of personal or relational crisis.
They’re caught in addictions that are destroying their physical, financial, emotional, and spiritual lives.
Their marriages are falling apart.
Their children are making choices that are bringing their world into chaos.
Their leadership team or organization is on the brink of collapse because of moral compromise or unresolved conflict.
When these people ask for my help, I bring my best tools to the table to assist them in identifying the problems that have caused the crisis and building effective solutions to those problems.
But in the midst of that process, I have one deep ambition and hope for these people. I want them to make the most critical, revolutionary transition any one of us can make in life.
I want them to transition from being primarily motivated by reaction to their pain to being motivated by response to a vision of who they want to become and the life they want to live.
You see, the main thing people want when they come to me in pain is for the pain to stop. I want that too. But I know the pain is most likely being caused by a set of beliefs, behaviors, and dynamics that must change if the problem is truly to be solved and prevented in the future. So, the critical deciding factor in this process is this:
Will the person in front of me choose to remain a victim of their pain? Or will they choose be a powerful person who actually wants something more than just stopping the pain—personal growth and maturity, relational restoration, and prospering in life?
Only they can make that choice . . . but I can help them understand what’s at stake in making that choice, and the nature of the spiritual battle over those stakes.
Slavery to Our Instincts
In Chapter 3 of Keep Your Love On, “The Battle Between Fear and Love,” I explain that we all learn instinctive reactions to pain growing up. All our natural instincts center around avoiding pain and seeking pleasure or comfort. The problem is that when we allow these instincts to run our lives, here’s how we classically behave:
- We remain fixated on ourselves and getting our needs met.
- We try to control and manipulate people into bringing pleasure and comfort in our lives.
- We punish people when they cause us pain.
Allowing selfishness, control, and punishment to become the driving forces in our lives is how we build lives full of dysfunction, addiction, and broken relationships. This is a pain factory right here.
There’s only one way to break out of slavery to our instincts, however, and that is to displace the spirit behind them: fear.
From Slavery to Freedom
Throughout the New Testament, we see the profiles of two opposite spirits laid out for us—the spirit of fear and the spirit of love. And the most fundamental difference between them is this:
The spirit of fear enslaves us (Rom. 8:15), while the spirit of love sets us free (2 Cor. 3:18).
In Chapter 3, I emphasize that to win the battle of fear vs. love, we must embrace the belief, “You cannot control other people. The only person you can control—on a good day—is yourself.” Fear enslaves us because it teaches us to live with an external locus of control. Love sets us free by giving us an internal locus of control—the awareness that “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4 NKJV).
This shift from slavery to freedom produces radical change in our lives. When we align with the spirit of love, we move from powerless to powerful, from irresponsible to responsible, from out of control to self-controlled. This is what Paul reminded Timothy—“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7 ESV).
Aligning with the Spirit of Love
Here’s what’s at stake for people who are deciding whether to stay as victims of their pain or become powerful. As long as they choose to stay enslaved to their fear, they are saying, “I don’t want love in my life.” We simply cannot enter a life of love when we are aligned with the spirit that opposes it.
When we choose to align our minds and hearts with the spirit of love (who is, of course, the Holy Spirit), we automatically shift toward pursuing a certain vision and standard for our life and relationships. I describe this vision and standard in Chapter 4, “Building Healthy Relationships,” with the metaphor of a building that has a foundation of unconditional acceptance and love, and seven pillars of love, honor, truth, responsibility, self-control, faith, and vision.
One of the practical ways to use this metaphor is as a guideline and measurement for the environment and experience we are creating through our thinking and behavior. The battle between fear and love is ongoing in our lives—actively choosing to align our thoughts and behavior with the spirit of love is a daily discipline. Using the seven pillars, we can ask ourselves:
- In my relationships, am I operating with the standard of “You get to be you and I get to be me in this relationship” and “Nothing you do will change my goal of connection with you”?
- Do the people I love feel safe and cared for by me?
- Am I honoring people by believing the best about them and respecting the line of demarcation between my life and theirs?
- Am I managing my trust by showing others the truth about my thoughts, feelings, and needs and being a safe place for them to do the same with me?
- Am I consistently responding to my circumstances in a way that protects the value of love and connection?
- Am I consistently telling myself what to do and doing it?
- Am I looking to God as my primary source of power, love, and self-control?
- Am I persevering through my circumstances with hope and joy because I am living with a love-based vision for my life and relationships?
In 2019, let’s go after living in this most powerful transition from fear to love, slavery to freedom, reacting to responding, powerless to powerful, pain to vision. Let’s pursue a life of love by aligning ourselves fully with the spirit of love!