Maybe, like me sometimes, you feel like the person isn’t listening or getting you, or isn’t open to alternate opinions. Of course my primal reaction is to just duck and cover. I’m completely willing to be kind and generous—but so much for an authentic relationship.
And that part’s my own fault.
But principles from my husband’s professional books are leaking into my perspective on relationships. They talk about hijacking your job, or “managing up”: It’s being proactive in the areas of your job you don’t like so much, so you can slowly take on more of the responsibilities you want, which the company also needs.
Hear the relational parallel? For a lot of reasons, sometimes I resort to passivity in relationships, allowing things to just bob along with me unsatisfied, and the other person clueless to what I crave. And because God didn’t really purpose for me to be a non-person—both of us suffer. A sermon by Tim Keller alighted on this for me: I realized that sometimes I wasn’t bringing about change because I was diffident. I didn’t care enough about the relationship.
Do I need to hijack my relationship?
The idea here is not to control the other person, even subtly. Author and pastor Danny Silk writes in Keep Your Love On! about “powerful people”—people who “choose one another and take full responsibility for that choice.” Here’s one of the ways he defines them:
Powerful people do not try to control other people. They know it doesn’t work, and it’s not their job. Their job is to control themselves….
As a result, they are able to consciously and deliberately create the environment in which they want to live…They deliberately set the standard for how they expect to be treated by the way they treat others. As they consistently act in responsible, respectful, and loving ways, it becomes clear that the only people who can get close to them are those who know how to show respect, be responsible, and love well.* (emphasis added)
The idea of “hijacking” your relationship is simply to choose more proactive responsibility, persevering love, and hope toward more mutual, real relationships. A friend’s self-centered chatter; that toxic gossip; an acquaintance who rarely talks about more than her superkids—you can be a healthy source of change; of grace.
Questions to ask
- When I’m honest, does any of my passivity stem from apathy? Am I willing to care enough to put in the effort for (likely slow) change? What if there’s no visible change? Am I ready to be faithful anyway?
- Are my expectations for this relationship, as author Peter Scazzero writes,**
- Agreed upon?
- If not, there’s a chance you’re expecting someone to possess, well, relational ESP: Please read my mind. You may need to extend some grace over what you want that isn’t happening. Honestly, sometimes, it means I rewrite my expectations for the relationship–based on what this person is able to give, rather than just what I wanted. Too often, my expectations steal my joy; my gratitude for what is.
- In what I’m longing for, am I being a giver or a taker? Silk writes,
Powerless people approach relationships as consumers. They are always looking for other people who have resources of love, happiness, joy, and comfort to offer in a relationship to share with them, because they don’t have any.
- If I’m not willing to do what it takes to change things, am I willing to not hold them to my expectations? Am I willing to forgive for ways I feel hurt, unseen, or run over? (Peacemakers challenges that to truly overlook—and not deny—we also need to be willing not to dwell on the issue, not to talk with someone who’s not a part of the solution, and continue to pursue the relationship.)
Ideas to Hijack Your Relationship
Ask for it. When my husband was getting ready to tell a close friend about our decision to move to Africa, he began with something like, I have something I want to tell you about. Ideally, I would love you to be excited for me. If you’re not, I get it, but I thought I’d tell you what I was hoping for. The friend totally stepped up and delivered. Be gently truthful about what you hope for!
Set the tone for what you long for. Silk writes, “[Powerful people] deliberately set the standard for how they expect to be treated by the way they treat others.” If you’re wishing your relationship had more authenticity, help bring the conversation to that level by courageously being vulnerable and asking good questions. If you wish someone affirmed you more, create that environment with your own praise. If you wish your son called you more, set up a regular time that works for both of you. But be willing for things to tank once in a while, or even for an extended time; relational patterns are often stubborn. Whether they respond or not, you still need to love them well.
Without controlling, plan ahead…and go for it. Say at a weekly playdate, the hyperfocus on celebrities or reality shows is wearing you down. You might come prepared with a question for a lull in the conversation (start here with some questions for taking your relationships deeper). “Hey, I’ve been thinking—I don’t know much about you ladies’ stories, and I don’t know about you—but all this time at home makes me just crave deeper conversation. Would I totally be steamrolling you if I brought a few good questions each week to talk about?”
Set boundaries–so you can love deeper. If you feel someone’s taking advantage of you–boundaries can help you to love more authentically and generously. Finally, you don’t feel so out of control! Instead, loving becomes a choice rather than an obligation.
HELP US OUT: What steps have you taken to make your relationships more fulfilling?
Tell us in the comment section below?
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*Silk, Danny. Keep Your Love On: Connection, Communication, and Boundaries. pp. 25-26.