The Four Levels of Relating

April 4, 2012

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Nicolas Ellen

The Four Levels of Relating

Five Minutes to Live

If you only had five minutes to live, what would you want to say to the person that is closest to you? Would there be anything you would want to do for them before you died? As you think about this person, how do you relate to them right now? Are you saying and doing for them now the things you would want to do if you were dying?

I find it fascinating how we handle people in crisis differently than when things are okay. Some handle people better in crisis than they would in times of peace. If I were to interview people close to you, what would they say about the way you relate? Our relational patterns are key to understanding the nature and quality of the relationships we have and the ones we have lost. Have you ever considered why you relate the way you do and how you relate the way you do?

The Four Levels of Relating

As I read the Heart of Man and Mental Disorders by Rich Thomson, I learned about four kinds of human relationships. This information guided me in the process of learning about myself as well as writing this blog post. I learned why some did not like to be around me, and why I could not get away from others. As I evaluated all the places God allowed me to minister, it helped me to understand why I was successful in some ministry opportunities, and in other cases I did not do so well. I have been able to see why some days I am driving my wife crazy, but other days I can be a blessing to her.

In Proverbs 27:5-6, we can identify 4 levels of relating that we tend walk in on a regular basis. Let me give you a little background about these particular verses so that we can better explore the meaning.

We are getting a comparison between styles of relating. In verse 5, the comparison is “better is this than that” approach. For instance it says, “Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed.” The idea here is that if you only had these two options to choose from, then open rebuke is better than love concealed. The text is not saying that it is the best situation over all, but rather compared to the other, it is better.

Another example of this is in Proverbs 25: 24, which tells us, “It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” Now obviously living in a corner of the roof is not the best situation for anyone, but compared to sharing a house with a contentious woman, it is better. You get the idea? So Proverbs 27:5 is showing us that open rebuke is better than love concealed. It is not the best situation over all, but compared to love that is concealed, it is better.

Verse 6 compares by contrast. Note that it states, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” One who is faithful to you is one who loves you to the point of not being afraid of allowing pain in the relationship if it will make you better or help you to grow in character. The “deceitful kiss of an enemy” gives the idea of one who is acting as if everything is okay between you and him, yet in reality he is holding inside of him grudges or problems he has with you. Yet, on the outside a kiss of endearment gives the impression that everything is okay within the relationship.

Within verses 5 and 6, based on these comparisons, we find four levels of relating that all of us at some point tend to walk in. Now, let’s look at these two verses and see if we can identify the levels of relating found in them.

In verse 5 we see what it means to be open and unloving and to be closed and loving.

  • Open and Unloving: To be open and unloving means that you are communicating and relating with others in a way that is right in what you are communicating to a person, but you are nasty in the way you are communicating and relating.
  • Closed and Loving: To be closed and loving means the love that is within your heart is not being received by the person you love.

In verse 6 we what it means to be open and loving and to be closed and unloving.

  • Open and Loving: To be open and loving means that you are communicating and relating with others in a way that is considerate, concerned, and caring.
  • Closed and Unloving: To be closed and unloving means that you find yourself talking about people behind their backs instead of to them, holding grudges instead of sharing hurts, being polite instead of being honest, or pretending to be okay with people when you are really not.

In Summary

As Proverbs gives us these four styles of relating, it is obvious that the style we are to strive to operate in is open and loving. Therefore, when we are not open and loving we need to confess our unloving thoughts, words, and actions accordingly (Proverbs 28:13).

Second, we need to begin speaking open expressions of love by faith, not feelings (Ephesians 4:15, 25, 29).

Third, we need to begin showing open expressions of love by faith (1Corinthains 13:4-7).

Finally, we need to trust God’s power not our feelings or abilities to accomplish this style of relating.

All of this will have major impact on your relationships. Your relational style will impact the quality of your relationships. If you are not pursuing openness and love, you will find the relationship less than its best. Be honest with yourself, with God, and with others in this matter and pursue being open and loving.

Join the Conversation

As you evaluate the relationships you are in, what level of relating do you find yourself practicing the most?


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