We crave control because we desire stability and security but the cost of control hurts our relationships and makes us anxious.
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you
as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.
Control is something we all desire whether we recognize it or not. We want things to go a certain way, we expect people will behave in a particular manner and when these things don’t happen, we get frustrated, angry, or resentful. Control, we think, offers us a sense of security. We fear what we can’t control.
How is the desire to control people actually damaging our relationship with them? In what ways are we trying to control people, maybe without even realizing it?
The most common ways people try to control others is through shame and manipulation. Sometimes we may not even realize we’re doing it.
Manipulation & Shame Are Powerful Weapons
Manipulation is a skillful way of managing or controlling someone. It’s often accompanied by shame, fear, or guilt that is projected onto the other person in order to get them to behave in a certain way or do a particular act.
It can leave the other person feeling guilted into doing something they don’t want to do or acting in a way that isn’t them.
Jesus never does this to us. We are always to look to Him as our example. He never forced anyone to do anything…not through threats, guilt, or manipulation. He simply and lovingly stated facts and left it at that. He allows us to choose what we do with the Truth He offers.
Jesus doesn’t threaten to withhold Himself from us or shame us into obedience. However, when we choose not to adhere to His word, we bear our own consequences. For example, when we lie, we hurt ourselves or someone else. Maybe not immediately, but eventually.
Check Your Heart
We need to check our motivation for why we need to manipulate someone to control how they act and what they do. Sometimes, it may be because we have their best interests at heart and only want to see them succeed. This only makes it more painful. But controlling someone will not heal what is broken–in us or in them.
Yet, just as God has given us free will, He also gives those we love free will. Trying to control another person through any means will only lead to frustration, anxiety, heartache, and inevitably a broken relationship.
Bear in mind, there is a difference between holding someone accountable for their actions and manipulating them.
Much of the time, natural consequences will follow when someone is in sin and will reap what they sow. If they sow nothing, they will get nothing. It is not for us to punish people. Maybe, instead, we need to put up a healthy boundary. But take care because boundaries, if they aren’t used properly, can also be a means of manipulation. It’s one thing to use it to protect yourself. But utilizing a boundary to punish or manipulate isn’t really a boundary.
It’s essential we remember that God is Sovereign and we are not. He knows and sees things we cannot. Trying to control another person only puts a burden on us that isn’t ours to carry. It’s not for us to control anyone.
“Much relational anxiety is generated when we want to
change the other rather than work on ourselves.”
-Sharon Hodde Miller
The only one we can control is ourselves and that’s where we ought to put our focus. We can control our thinking and mindset when we remain grounded in His Word and listen to the Holy Spirit.
Learning To Let Go of Control
How do we learn to let go of control? This illusion of control also gives us an illusion of security, authority, and regulation. The only One who possesses these is God. He doesn’t want us to carry the weight of trying to change other people, especially to change them into something we want.
“When we try to control people, we will inevitably fracture our relationship with them, because God did not design people to be controlled.”
-Sharon Hodde Miller
God has a plan and purpose; as each of us seeks Him at our own personal level, He grows us in different ways and at different rates. We need to trust Him, what He knows, and His work rather than believing we have all the answers someone else needs. We cannot force someone to seek God in these matters. They need to be willing and we need to let go.
We need to recognize the difference when someone is walking a path heading for destruction or simply walking a path we ourselves wouldn’t walk. Just because someone we love does something differently than we would, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong or destructive. It’s just different.
In His Word
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. –
1 John 4:18
The root of control is often fear. When we are afraid for someone we love, we make attempts to control them or their situation. But love is stronger than this. When we love God, it casts the fear out and when there is no fear, there is no desire for control.
In Your Life
Consider someone in your life who you might be trying to control. Maybe you are afraid of their choices or they are choosing a path you wouldn’t have chosen. Lay them down at the foot of the Lord. Release that burden so you aren’t living in bondage to your own illusion of control. It’s a heavy, heavy burden Jesus doesn’t want you to carry.
Recognize your limits and rest in them. Hard as it may be! It will bring you peace and freedom.