There’s a lot written about controlling people. They are people who must be in control of every detail of their lives. They can be CEO’s who manage multimillion dollar international corporations or moms who are running the home front with 2 preschoolers, a first grader, and a new puppy. Both can be extremely demanding occupations, and each with their own rewards. Granted, the former is often compensated with lucrative bonuses and stock options while the later is compensated with sticky hugs, slobbery kisses, and memories that last a lifetime–and stains that you’ll never get out not matter how much Spray & Wash you use.
But is there a difference between being in control and being controlling? Absolutely. One is essential. The other is destructive.
If a car is hurling down the highway at 70mph, I certainly do hope there’s someone in control of the vehicle. Anyone who has ever driven on icy roads in the winter and experienced “black ice” conditions is familiar with the terror of not being in control. Control of a vehicle is good. Otherwise, it’s irresponsible at least and lethal at worst.
To take control in situations where there is chaos–like a hospital ER, the scene of an auto accident, or an air traffic control tower–is a responsible thing to do. That’s not being controlling. It’s harnessing your power, skills, authority, and resources to restore order to an otherwise chaotic and potentially dangerous situation. Taking control in situations that require intervention is a productive example of responsible strength in action to bring about a good purpose. The focus is on how it benefits others. And we all can learn and be trained how to do that more effectively.
However, we all know controlling people. You know, the ones who think the world revolves around them. They feel the need to control others not because it’s best for others, but because it’s best for themselves. They don’t trust anyone else to get things right. They only trust themselves. They are fundamentally insecure, driven, and self-absorbed. And just plain no fun to be around.
People who are controlling are driven to be the god of their universe. Just like the Evil One who nursed a craving to take the place of God in the world, so also people who are controlling are determined to bend the will of others to their own. Listen to Isaiah’s words:
How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!
You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights or the sacred mountain.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:12-14)
Bottom line, it’s the “I will’s” of the heart that reduced Lucifer from being the beautiful one into the ugly enemy of all that is good. When controlling people honestly begin to listen to what they are saying in their hearts, they will begin to hear a familiar refrain of desperation. And desperation based on disbelief eventually leads to the defiant “I will” kind of attitude and actions that are classified as controlling.
Okay. Here’s the rub. We all have control issues. I mean it. We all have serious control issues. It looks different on each of us–just like the same clothes look different on each of us given our unique body shape, eye and hair color, and height–but we all struggle with control. We’re vulnerable and we know it. And we all need to learn how to not be defiantly controlling but responsibly in control.
Controlling people are desperately trying to control their world because they don’t really believe that God has their best interests in mind. Have you ever been there? I sure have. While I’m delighted to say that it’s gotten better over the years, I’m saddened to say that my disbelief hasn’t been fully eradicated.
“But,” you may say, “I trust God.” Yep. Me too. And yet, at some core heart level, I must admit that I still battle with pockets of defiant resistance. Abandoning oneself into God’s hands can often feel more reckless than responsible. Our refusal to trust Him is exposed. Believing that He really is good is the essence of true biblical faith “because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
So, now it’s your turn to sound off. How do you respond to the controlling people in your world? Or maybe a better question is, how do you respond when someone catches you being controlling? Have you ever caught yourself being controlling? Or, have you been negligent in taking responsible control in situations where others need your help? I’d love to hear what God is stirring in you.