Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Psalm 127:1
There is no peace in control. We tell ourselves that having complete control over a situation will soothe our hearts and minds, but the opposite is true. While our flesh remains calm, our minds and hearts are warring. For those of you who love exercise, forgive me, but control is like running on a treadmill – you run, and sweat, and your heart pounds, but ultimately you are staying in the same spot; you get nowhere! Control brings us anxiety and exhaustion. Would it surprise you to know that the typical ‘Type A’ personalities are prone to higher risks of heart attack, stroke, eating disorders, and migraines? All of the strength that it takes to live at top performance is really just taking a toll on your health. Control is ironic in that you set out to use it on someone else, but it ends up eating you alive.
Every negative response that we have has a root somewhere in our past. It could be from a long time ago, or a more recent event. Wounds create unhealthy responses. If we understand the reasons behind our need to control, then we can bring that wounded place before God for healing.
I was emotionally and verbally abused by someone close to me when I was a teenager. I got to the point where I hated myself because I believed the words spoken over me. I vowed to myself that I would NEVER hurt someone the way that person had hurt me; yet I found myself, years later, criticizing and shooting emotional darts at those I loved most. I didn’t want to be that way, but I had created a habitual thought pattern or ‘normal’, and it came out when I wasn’t happy. It’s difficult to break the habits and mindsets that have been created over long periods of time because they become a sort of example of how to respond. It takes God teaching you and creating in you a new mind to overcome those mindsets.
Hurt. Great losses and deep, enduring pain during our formative years create a powerful need to control our surroundings. Parents who are abusive or are addicts create an unstable home where children tend to be victims, intentionally or not. A child raised in a home where one or both parents were absent or neglectful might feel like they have no control over their life, which translates into an adult who has to white-knuckle life in order to create a feeling of security.
Insecurity. Insecurity tells us that if we are going to be safe, everything and everyone needs to be just so. We take one of two extremes in order to control what’s going on around us, people pleasing or paranoia. We tell ourselves that if everyone likes us, no one will hurt us, so we struggle to give people what they want in order to control their behavior. The opposite end of that spectrum is pride-driven paranoia. We feel threatened by opposition to what we strongly believe to be right, which leads to us criticizing or pouting when people ‘disrespect’ us by choosing to do things their own way. People who are secure in Jesus don’t struggle with offense in the same way that those who aren’t firmly rooted in His peace do. The goal is to get to the point where we are not threatened by different ideas and ways of doing things.
Fear. Fear is one of the most horrific feelings there is. We feel powerless to hold things together alone; yet we feel if we let go of even one thing, our families will fall apart. Not every motivation for control is bad, but we are deceiving ourselves because we are never really in control. The enemy has ways of speaking to us in just the right way, and at the right time, in order to magnify hurts, fears, and insecurities and drive us to control. When we jump in and try to play the Holy Spirit in others’ lives, it pushes God out of the picture. This puts us in rebellion to God, because we are elevating our trust in ourselves above our trust in God. You have to ask yourself what your motivation is; a pain-free life, or a spirit-filled life?
There are ways to address these hurts and habits with God and change our reactions. It’s time to get off the treadmill, and take a walk outside instead.
If you have not identified with any of the controlling responses, please read this with your spouse in mind. So much of our identity comes from our childhood and who we see ourselves as. Perhaps seeing places where your spouse has been hurt can help you to better understand their pain and struggle.
In what ways have your hurts, insecurity, or fear affected your need to control others?
Do you believe some of those same wounds have led your spouse to try to control, as well?
Has the stress of holding everything together caused you health issues?
Are you ready to give those things to God?