Years ago I went to a Christian counselor and one of the most helpful things I learned from him was what he termed "Styles of Relating". He had studied material from Dr. Karen Horney on the three predictable styles of relationships one adopts as a survival method to overcome pain in childhood. The three styles are: move away, move toward, and move against. The styles are pretty self explanatory. Move aways are people who detach in order to survive; they become independent, self controlling and self reliant. Move toward are people who have to have control of another relationship for their security and self worth. And of course move against are those individuals who have to dominate and rule whatever situation they are in.
I remember hearing a lecture by Dr. Neil Anderson where he gave the example of three sons born to an alcoholic father. Each son he said would respond differently. One would remove himself ( move away), one would appease or pacify ( move toward) and one would fight ( move against); hence the three styles.
The counselor I was seeing explained these are unhealthy styles of relating and the answer involved giving up my style and adopting a healthier life style by which I could respond to another person appropriately. Sometimes that would mean submitting, sometimes it would mean detaching, and sometimes it would mean over coming; in other words learning to do all three when appropriate.
But is it that simple? I think not. First let me say I found the understanding of these styles most helpful. It brought great clarity in my own personal life.However I think there is a better way of seeing these styles and more importantly a better way out of them.
As the counselor said these are "unhealthy" "neurotic" "compulsive" ways of relating. I would say they are "fallen" ways of relating. These are the styles humans have succumbed to because of the Fall. They were never God's original intent for how we relate to Him or to one another.Yes I need to stop doing them but I don't think the answer is as simple as adopting " A healthy attachment to another whereby I can move away, toward or against when appropriate". Correcting fallen behavior by behavior modification never works. No matter how hard I may want out of my old move away self; all the moving toward and against "when appropriate" simply does not work.
The answer is I must die and be raised to a new life whereby I am adopted into Christ. This is what the Apostle Paul was saying when he wrote these words " I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me" ( Galatians 2:20).
So what does this look like really? And how might I better understand this?I think the first place to start is with the understanding of two narratives; The Ego Story and The Theo Story. You will live in one or the other.
The Ego Story is the fallen story ( narrative) we are all born into with the "I" at its center. The best definition of sin I know is incurvates en se....life curved in on self. I must die to this story and be raised in Christ to The Theo Story. It is important to note here the differences between the two.
Ego Story: Author- Me, Actor- Myself, Director- I
Theo Story: Author- God the Father, Actor- Christ the Son, Director-The Holy Spirit
The way in which I come into the Theo Story is by being adopted into Christ Jesus. I am restored to God the Father in Him. I become a Christian ( which means little Christ). This makes me a co-actor with Jesus. This is my part in the grand narrative. Its not all about me anymore; I have died and been raised to live in union with Him. It is His life....His story.
So how does this connect to the styles of relating?
The styles of relating are connected to my old fallen self. I need to understand that as a new creation in Christ I must now grow in Him, grow up to His full stature. This will mean not only looking to him as an example but more importantly habituating his practices so they seep into my very being; transforming me and conforming me into His image.
What are His practices? They are what the church has called " The Three Offices of Christ"; Prophet, Priest and King. Every Christian whether they understand it or not is called in Christ to be a prophet, a priest and a king. It would take volumes to unpack the full meaning of what I have just written but for my purposes here I want to suggest this: The three offices of Christ are the reality to which the three styles of relating are the perversion of. Move away is a distortion of prophet, move toward is a distortion of priest, and move against is a distortion of king.
Now lets go back to where I started. The counselor tells me I am a move away so I need to learn how to move toward and against "when appropriate". What does that look like? If this is all I know may I not just do it all in a fleshly way using another fallen behavior to compensate or balance my move awayness? Does this not leave me in The Ego Story?
How much better it would be to say for instance; your weakness is in exercising authority and of knowing you have "a voice". You need to study how Jesus operates in his kingly office. Go through the gospels and pay careful attention to how he leads and exercises authority.
Practicing his offices is one of the ways we "put on Christ" ( Romans:14) or are clothed in HIm ( Galatians 3:27). We study him with the intentionality of a disciple. We leave the old ways of fear and control behind and step into the freedom of following the one True Human, in so doing we become truly human ourselves.