Author and Christian therapist, Steve Benson joins us today to discuss his book “Embracing Love: Living on the Other Side of Disconnected Relationships.” Steve has a Masters of Divinity and Masters of Counseling. He has been working with couples and families in private practice since leaving the mission field in the early 2000s.
The Wall Keeps Us From Loving People Genuinely
Steve’s work focuses on spiritual formation and how people relate to one another. He finds maturity develops through marriage and that marriage develops an individual’s ability to love someone other than himself.
In his book, Steve examines the concept of the wall that keeps people from loving one another as God intended. This wall forms as a type of coping mechanism or as self-protection.
Steve references Genesis 3 & 4, to show how fear and pride can impact the way people relate to one another via defensiveness and bitterness. The result is not loving people genuinely.
Until these walls are identified, they continue to struggle in their relationships. The fall of man has created this dysfunction.
Steve gives the example of Adam and Eve and how Adam blame-shifted. He gives Cain and Abel as an example of bitterness to show how early man struggled with these walls with resulting dysfunctional behaviors.
The Walls Keep Us Self-Centered
Steve’s work with addiction inspired him to look into people’s walls. Anger, rage and fear kept these people from having strong relationships.
These walls kept them from being vulnerable and loving other people. Steve quotes Tim Keller with “Life is not about what you can get, but what you can give” to emphasize how important it is that we love genuinely. Walls keep us self-centered.
The Wall of “The Teacher”
Living behind your wall means can mean feeling isolated, hurt, lonely and/or confused. Living behind the wall influences the roles you play and the way you communicate.
Steve gives the example of “The Teacher”, someone who tells others what to do, playing the part of the expert. This person gains their importance through knowing everything. This person is controlling and fearful.
The Wall of “The Swinger”
Steve also describes “The Swinger”, someone who swings from one relationship to another (romantic or otherwise.) This could be someone who dates someone shortly, gets a lot of deep emotions from her, and then moves to the next relationship.
A swinger relates to people by using people, allowing them to be vulnerable, and then drops them to move to the next relationship. This person is superficial in relationships.
The Wall of “The Clinger” and “The Pretender”
“The Clinger” is someone who uses people to be their emotional sounding boards. When someone lets them know they can’t handle their behavior, they move to another relationship.
“The Pretender” is the person who is a fair-weather friend, when things are good, they are great, but when things get tough, they drop the relationship. They hide behind an image.
The Wall of “The Rescuer”
“The Rescuer” is someone who is not really loving others, they are loving self. They hide behind their actions. They are behaving like what Steve describes “the fourth person of the Trinity.”
The rescuer gets their worth from how they can help others. They feel worthless when others do not follow their advice. This person needs to focus more on their identity in Christ, rather than feeling self-worth from helping others.
How To Live Beyond Our Walls
People live beyond their walls by understanding their stories. God is a God of stories and redemption. Psalm 139 can encourage us to be self-aware, which can apply to how you operate in relationships.
Asking yourself “What are my patterns, what am I doing, how am I doing it? What are my weaknesses?” is key.
Steve describes how that until he got married, he was only self-centered, but saw the effect of his sinfulness and how it impacted his wife. He gives an example of how his wife confronted him on his hearing issue, after being mortally embarrassed by his behavior in Wal-Mart.
Her confrontation forced him to realize that an issue that he just chalked up to a justifiable deficiency was a wall that he was hiding behind. He was being prideful and not taking responsibility for his actions.
We Need To Monitor And Examine Ourselves
We need to learn how to monitor ourselves. Be aware of how our patterns of behaviors affect others.
Steve gives the example of a pastor with ADHD who was inconsistent in his projects, then blamed others or his ADHD for not doing his job. People left his church. People could not trust what he said. He was not growing in God.
He became burned out and isolated. His blame-shifting and micro-managing had isolated him from relationships.
Through therapy, he became aware of how his behavior impacted others and of his blame-shifting. He developed skills for how to love others, to be consistent. This required him to confess and ask forgiveness. He became a learner and in about six months, turned his life around.
To tear down walls, look to the fruit of the spirit. You have to have repentance first.
Questions to ask yourself:
What motivates me?
What are my truths?
Part of contentment in life is accepting God’s love, knowing you do not need others acceptance, only God’s.
Accepting Zephaniah 3:17, into your life: “He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
*Note that all client stories have been altered to protect their identities.