Are you like most of us in that we are really "closet" control "freaks?" Do you work hard to keep yourself free from pain and heartache through control? The following is a simple plan to set you free from issues of control.
Has anyone ever called you a “control freak” or some other similar title to define your character and behavior? Most of us have been labeled as such at one time or another. Am I a “control freak?” Who, me? Of course not! Tragically, most of us have indeed displayed controlling behavior and haven’t really understood what we were doing. It’s time for all of us to face the truth and learn that we are often subtly engaged in controlling behaviors that are life destructive to us and to many around us.
The Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary defines “control” as “to exercise restraining or directing influence over; to regulate; to have power over; to rule.” Most times we seek to “exercise restraining or directing influence over” someone we are actually doing so with a subconscious need to be “in charge” of the behavior of others as a protective measure to limit or eliminate the perceived possibility of hurt. This is different from the natural and expected control we necessarily engage in over our children, as they need our guidance and direction to learn the difference between right and wrong behaviors. This is where I believe that I need to be in charge of my surroundings and circumstances to protect myself from potential hurt and heartache.
Why do I need to do this? Why do I need to control the actions of others? There are some primary reasons for our engagement of control as we seek to “protect” ourselves from:
· Possible loss of self-esteem. We have all experiences the hurtful words and actions of others that have demeaned us and stripped self-worth from us. Unless I have a healthy self-image upon which to hold when “attacked,” I will develop ways of protection – ways to control my surroundings to avoid loss of worth.
· Possible emotional pain and heartache. There are a variety of painful experiences in life – watching an alcoholic parent stagger into the home and pass out on the floor, daily arguments between loved ones, life threatening illnesses, extreme financial stresses, etc. – and I may think that, if I can just control my surroundings and circumstances I can avoid the emotional pain and heartache.
· Possible failure. Sometimes the fear of failure can be paralyzing. In order to avoid failure, I may start projects but never see them through because of fears of failure or I may never start projects at all for the same reason.
· Possible loss. I may fear the loss of a loved one whether through death, emotional brokenness, rejection, abandonment or infidelity in one of its many forms. I may want to do whatever it takes to avoid the painful experience of loss in any form.
· Possible blame. I may fear that, if something goes wrong, people will place the blame on me for its failure. Therefore I become extraordinarily careful of whom I work with or relate to make certain that no one can cause failure and I will not experience blame.
As we can see, our need for control is actually based upon fear and our
fears demand we take control. There are several factors that are interwoven with the reasons listed above that are behind our fears that create our need for control. They are:
· Negative background experiences. Negative background experiences such as how we were raised or the way I was taught (or not taught) to deal with things leave a “residue” of pain and heartache in each of us. I will seek to avoid any potential negative feelings by assuming control of my life. I may even make promises to myself that I will never do what others did even though I should know to “never say never.”
· Negative life experiences. These can be things that happened to me such as verbal, physical and/or sexual abuse, serious physical illness, serious financial problems, addiction problems (mine or someone close to me), etc. Again, I vow to never permit the past to hold me in bondage so I will take all necessary steps to manage my relationships, surroundings and circumstances.
· My personality type. Certain personality types are more prone to struggle to stand against conflict, pain and heartache and I may need to learn what my personality type may be and how I can address my personality limitations.
· Damaged self-esteem due to background and life experiences. So many issues can damage my self-worth. Without resolution of those painful experiences, the fear of my self-esteem being hurt again can become the most prominent basis for operating my life through controlling behavior.
· Development of perfectionist tendencies. More of us are “addicted” to perfectionism than we are willing to admit. Perfectionism is an extension of fear and control. If I do everything just right or control my environment as perfectly as possible, I can avoid pain.
The catch is we don’t understand what we can and cannot control. I
falsely assume that I can control “everything” when, in reality, I can control very little. What are the things that I can ultimately control? These are all things that no one else can take away from me.
· My behavior. My behavior is always my decision. No one can make me do anything I don’t want to do though I may want to place he blame for my behavior on others or my circumstances.
· My character. Again, I am in charge of my character.
· My beliefs and my faith. I choose to believe in what I want to believe and place my trust spiritually in God as I see Him.
· My values and standards. I alone am responsible for my values and standards. Though I may have been exposed to different values and standards, I still choose what I embrace.
· My view of life and the world. I choose if I am negative or positive in my approach in life and I select my own world-view.
· My self-esteem. I am “in charge” of how I see myself. When I struggle, I will always have a point of reference in relying on how I know God sees me.
· My personal passion from God. Knowing that God has a specific plan for my life is something no one else can ever take from me. His plan for me is as unique as I am.
On the other hand, there are areas I cannot control and I need to
recognize those areas I cannot control no matter what drastic steps I may take to do so. What are the things I cannot ultimately control? These are the things that others around me can influence.
· My employment, employer and co-workers. These people will have direct influence over my life and it’s imperative I know that I need to appropriately adapt without compromising who I am in relationship to the things about myself I can control.
· My plans. If my plans involve other people, the “messiness” of their lives may intersect with mine and I cannot control their issues.
· What other people say and do and how they treat others. There is no way to control the words and actions of others. I can never know the depth of the life issues they are facing and I cannot control how those unresolved issues might spill over onto our lives.
· The beliefs, faith, values and standards of others. Again, as diverse as people are in their personalities, giftedness, and life and background experiences and therefore, in their beliefs, faith, values and standards, I need to know that persons who are different than me will always surround me. I cannot control those differences and how they seek to influence my life.
· The decisions others make that my influence my life. Again, I cannot control the decisions others make and how they may affect me.
The reality is that I can do little on my own to control my
surroundings and circumstances. I need help that is beyond my own abilities to do so. The only source of empowerment is the very God who created us all. There are many passages of Scripture in the Bible that tells us of our need to give to Him all the things we cannot control because only He has the power to change things. These three are part of the many verses available.
“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22a TNIV).
“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (I Peter 5:7 TNIV).
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 TNIV).
We need to understand that true control is a faith issue. True control gives control away. True control gives control to the all-powerful God. And, when our adversary seeks to tempt us to take back or retain control ourselves, true control stands against that notion and returns or leaves control in God’s hands. The result is that, by giving control away we actually gain control! We have been trying to have control for many years without realizing that we are actually giving control of our lives to our fears, to others, and to our surroundings and circumstances! Today is the day to “take control” with the control plan that really works! Give it a try!
©2007 Mel Menker
All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the author.