Staff Picks – The Power of the Other

March 23, 2017
Note: Throughout this series one of our staff members will be giving you a recommendation and/or a brief review from the world of music, movies, TV or literature. Hopefully this will serve as a way to see inside the head of our staff members and direct you towards some listening, viewing or reading material for your own personal growth and enjoyment. Today’s post is from our worship director, Mark Ott.

 

There’s a saying that church would be a wonderful place but for the people. Of course, the grain of truth behind this is that people inherently include weaknesses, drama, and hurt. So it can be tempting to drift towards an idea that we’re better off if we don’t have to depend on anyone else.  Some even begin taking this toward its logical conclusion: isolation.  And while there are people from whom we need to disconnect, we are not actually able to live healthy and happy lives without others.  In fact, we are designed by our Creator for relationships.  This reflects the Godhead relationship. Since we are created in the image of God, we are also made for one another.

I’ve read several of Henry Cloud’s books and have heard him speak a number of times.  I find him to be easy to understand and very helpful in advice.  In my role as a pastor, I want to grow in my ability to help people take God’s Word and apply it to practical matters (like relationships) in their lives. So learning from a psychologist like Dr. Cloud who is also a very public believer has a great deal of value for me.  He is very skilled at taking Biblical principles and truths and demonstrating how they apply in practical ways.

A few months ago, I read his book called The Power Of The Other.  Honestly, I did not expect it to be very interesting or very challenging, but I found it to be both.  The premise of the book is that the only real way to move beyond our limits and our status quo is through connection with others.  As he talks through the impact that others have on us, it seems so obvious that I was startled we don’t all embrace this reality more often.

He divides relationships into four categories (he labels them as “Corners”).  In the Corner One relationships, he talks about relationships that have no connection.  Even with many people around you, you can be disconnected from the positive influence of relationship.  For some, this is a default tendency, while for others it is an adopted strategy.  But you don’t find much joy, purpose, or fulfillment in Corner One.  In Corner Two, you are connected to someone, but they have a way of making you feel ‘less than’.  Whether it is causing you to feel like you don’t measure up or that you’re just a failure, these types of relationships often pretend to be ‘motivational’ but they are actually destructive.  Corner Three relationships are described as relationships that fake real connection.  They are interactions we have that are actually shallow and make us feel good, but they aren’t based on deep trust and connection.  We may enjoy them for a while, but they wind up leaving us burnt and confused.  Finally, Corner Four relationships are healthy, trusting, fulfilling relationships that have the power to fuel our lives to forward motion and growth beyond anything we could do ourselves.  Much of the book talks about identifying the different types of relationships in practical ways and addressing the reasons for getting stuck in unhealthy relationships.  It also describes the effects that God meant for us to experience through Corner Four relationships.

I dog-eared two passages as I read.  One is a discussion of the difference between high performers and everyone else in response to feelings of failure. Many people live in fear of it, and when it arrives, believe it says that they can never succeed.  But high performers choose to see those moments as opportunities to grow – often using insight and feedback from others.  I find the power of encouragement and support to be very effective in my life.  As I face challenges and struggles, it can feel like there is no way to overcome.  But over and over, as I share what I’m up against with trusted friends, I find that their ability to add perspective can get me unstuck. On top of that, those who believe in me in spite of my stumbling can motivate me to keep going.  As a parent, I see these opportunities in my relationships with my children.  I get to help them work through failure.  Not that I do it FOR them, but I can be a voice that helps them know how to face failure and grow through it instead of believing it says something permanent about them.

The other passage I noted was one on understanding.  Dr Cloud takes a little bit of time to discuss how simply feeling ‘understood’ changes the dynamic of both communication and connection.  Often, our struggles to connect arise from believing we are not being understood.  So we fight and we argue, we debate and correct.  But we set aside the amazing power of helping another feel ‘understood’.  This should be a first step, not a final goal.  Once we’ve understood one another, we can then communicate genuine differences in perspective, approach, preferences, and ideas.  However, too often we don’t get to that healthy discussion because we don’t invest the time to actually understand one another.

I am deeply appreciative of the relationships that God has used and continues to use in my life.  I would not be doing what I do without their influence and input. Reading this book reminded me of some things I hold very dear and added to my understanding of my own relationships.  Ultimately, we are Christians because of a relationship with Jesus, so it is not a stretch to say that we should already know how transformational right relationships can be.  When we are willing to pursue God’s work in us through one another, we begin to engage the power of community as God intended.