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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Are You a Control Freak?

Before I delve into a very difficult and personal subject, I must give you an update on our family.

We should be getting the keys to our new farm on Wednesday!! Woohoo! We can hardly wait! We've decided to name our new place "Heritage Farm," a name my husband came up with, as we truly desire for this place to be passed down to generations after us - a heritage. 

Also, a week ago today, we picked up our first farm animal - a farm dog (well, puppy, really). She's a chocolate lab mix, maybe with retriever or border collie. My daughter thought up the name Coco, and everyone loved it. She's seven weeks old, and adjusting beautifully! She sleeps through the night until about 5:30am. She only went potty in the house the first day she was here, but hasn't since. She cries to go outside, even when she's in the garage in her pen. She gets along well with our three beagles. When they give her warnings that they don't want to play or be bitten, she obeys them. She's just been a pleasure (accept for the biting, I guess).


As leaders in the church, we often see commonalities in human behavior. Many people will struggle with the same character issue. We see it all the time. One particular character issue we see quite often is women who are controlling.

How is it I can spot a controlling woman so quickly?

Because it takes one to know one, and I've struggled with controlling tendencies myself in different seasons of my life. At 15 years of marriage, now, when it rears it's ugly head, my husband will point it out for me, and although I usually don't take kindly to that mirror in my face, he's usually right. Earlier in our marriage, it was the source of many problems and fights. When God finally revealed to me this major problem I had, I was so broken, disgusted with myself, and ashamed. I had to repent before God and my husband. It was painful. I realized the damage I had created in our marriage. I will never forget what he told me: "Sometimes its just easier to give in to you than to fight with you all the time." How awful that must have been for him!!! I never wanted to be the one to create such a horrible living situation for someone else. I was embarrassed and ashamed of my behavior. It led me to some serious changes in my life.

I'm not completely healed of this tendency. I find it pops up in certain seasons of my life, like when I'm really tired and exhausted, or I'm uncertain about my future.

(NOTE: This tendency can be a struggle with men as well, but this blog post is directed at women in particular.)  

What's so wrong with being controlling?
  • The people who have to live with you and interact with you become miserable! Nobody likes to be controlled by someone else. Your actions will push people away. It is tiring and exhausting to live with a control freak. Others feel constant disappointment with their inability to make you happy.
  • The root of controlling behaviors are usually not of God (fear, pride, insecurity, etc.).
  • You get in the way of God working. He should be in control.
Symptoms of Being Controlling
  • You feel anxious and frustrated when things don't go as planned
  • You insist you know what is right for other people - correcting them, directing them, criticizing their conduct or way of living in general, mingling in others' affairs - you impose your thinking on others and try to align others with your value system
  • You insist your way is the right way
  • When you are too afraid to speak your own truth, you quietly undermine others -  manipulation is a friend of control
  • You blame others for everything instead of feeling your inner conflict or taking self-responsibility
  • You tend to be a perfectionist, often over trivial things - dedicating serious amounts of time and effort to unnecessary things - you are preoccupied and worry with insignificant details. Do you fret over things too small to worry about? Are you worried too much about whether things outside of your control are going to upset your life?
  • You like everything to be planned and controlled, since you doubt the competence of others
  • When your expectations go unmet, it results in bouts of anger and scorning - anger is also a friend of control
  • You cannot forget your own past failures and move on - insecurity and fear can be roots of control
  • You tend to be pessimistic and a worrier about things out of your control
  • When you are not perfect, over time, it can lead to devastation and even depression
  • You're not able to let things go
  • You can't help but to point out others' mistakes
  • Others may do things without telling you or hide things from you to avoid your criticism
  • You tend to think more negatively - you engage in negative self-talk or speak out loud your negative thoughts often
What causes us to be controlling?
  • Some of us are born with a more dominant personality, which isn't so bad, if kept in check and balance
  • Some of us were raised by a controlling parent, and therefore, we live out what was inappropriately modeled for us as a child
  • Perhaps our early life was so traumatic and uncontrollable that, in adulthood, we control so hurt cannot come to us again
  • Pride may also be an issue, which is an unwillingness to accept someone else may be right and you may be wrong. You may commonly think, "I'm better educated or equipped, and I don't trust what they will do."
  • Fear is, more often than not, at the root of controlling behaviors - try asking yourself, "Why do I feel the need to take control of this person or situation?" Most of the time, the answer to that is a fear that, if you don't take control, you will lose something.
  • We haven't learned to trust - trust our loved ones, or ultimately, God - that He can work on behalf of imperfect people for our good - (this was the biggest one for me to come to terms with - my controlling behavior was about my lack of trust in God, not my husband)
Control is the opposite of trust.
How do I overcome controlling behaviors?
  1.  Acknowledge and accept that you are controlling. Realize that your actions and words are damaging to others. Humble yourself and accept responsibility for your actions. THIS IS THE HARDEST STEP OF ALL, but you must complete it to find healing!
  2. Confession - the Bible says to confess your faults to one another - you cannot skip this step. Confess your weakness to the person(s) you've offended. Explain that you acknowledge your faults, you realize your behavior is wrong, and that you are on the path to change. Let them know that you intend to do everything necessary to repair the damage done in your relationship. Ask the person for patience, as change isn't easy.
  3. Invite (yes, I said invite) criticism from a close loved one or friend. This may be very hard to take. It's hard to lose this control in your own life. But a big step towards healing is relinquishing the idea that you are the only one who can tell you anything. This step also allows the other person the freedom to share their true feelings about how your actions affect them. There are many feelings they perhaps have never shared with you for fear of how you'd react. So you may be surprised at how they truly feel. Do not get defensive with what they say, even if you don't agree with them. That will destroy their belief that you truly desire to change. Accept that, in their minds, you DID hurt them. Be humble enough to listen to their thoughts and feelings.
  4. Change your reactions to fear, pride, insecurity, and other roots of controlling behavior. The circumstances that cause you to control are still going to happen. You can CHOOSE, however, to react differently and in a more healthy way. IT IS A CHOICE! This is one thing you should control - how you react. 
Here are a few practical ideas on how to make changes:
  • Allow others to make decisions, and don't complain if you don't like it.
  • Let others do what they want to do, and smile about it, or do it with them.
  • When you feel that fear rising up within you that things are about to go bad if you don't take control, take a time out. Don't allow the pressure build inside you. Take time to relax.
  • Stop yourself from giving "looks" to those who don't do what you want them to do.
  • Don't allow yourself to constantly criticize. (As you watch yourself for this, I would venture to say you'll be surprised at how much you do this. You will probably notice that, in almost every area of their life, you have criticized the way they've done something simply because it is not the way you would have done it. This makes others feel like they're not good enough. Others may start to do things behind your back to avoid your criticism.)
  • Make it easy for others to be honest with you by not getting upset when they make a mistake. Allow them to be human, realizing that you've made plenty of mistakes in your life.
  • PRAY! Ask God for help with overcoming something so natural within you. You will need His help, trust me!
  • Through this time, learn how to give things over to God - to trust Him with your outcome. This can be very hard. But it can be made easier by listing all the times you have witnessed God's faithfulness in your life and the lives of others (even those in the Bible). If He was trustworthy then, He's trustworthy now.
  • Begin a journey toward understanding that not everything we perceive as "bad" is truly bad. God's ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. He has unique ways for growing us, and sometimes that involves putting us in uncomfortable places so we can learn and come out better on the other side. You are not the master of the universe. Let God do what He knows is best in our lives, even if we don't agree.
5. Create a positive environment. As you begin to keep yourself in check, you will realize how negative your thoughts, self-talk, or words coming out of your mouth tend to be. Try to find the good in every situation. THIS TAKES PRACTICE! Only allow yourself to speak positive thoughts around others. Do not talk derogatory about others. Mistakes that others make should remain private.

This is a long, hard journey, but I promise you, it is loaded with positive relational benefits. You must do this for yourself and the people you love. Although I'm not perfect, my marriage is a TON better today than in our early years, because I no longer mother my husband, but treat him like the man he is and deserves to be treated like. Let God be God in your life and in the lives of those around you.

You may also be interested in my past blog post, Carrying Loads We Weren't Intended to Carry.


  1. Thanks so much for this Chris. I know it was written in 2012, but quite honestly it is perfect for where I am today! Does the world really continue on rotating on its axis if perfection is not achieved? (sarcasm for sure) though, in reality I quite often behave as if it will not!
    Your simple points of "Not everything I perceive as bad, is bad!" His ways are not my ways. What a revelation of this I needed tonight.
    Long and short, Thank you...again...5 yrs later!

  2. Do you have any suggestions on how confront or come along side of a pastor's wife and help her in this area. How do I tactfully let her know that her husband acquiesces to her (he is her puppet and he is afraid to confront her). Everyone but her seems to see it. I am not very good with words- so I don't want her to think I am just criticizing her but I don't want to dance around the truth either.