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Four Characteristics of Control Freaks


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Most of us know controlling people. But it’s rare that any of us see ourselves as controlling. I’ve always been driven. I still am. But, since I came to faith I think I can get away with it because it has the veneer of spirituality.

So, the reason I can write so easily of these four characteristics is that I’m occasionally guilty of all of them. By the grace of God, I’m better than I was. But, I’m a recovering control freak who still falls off the wagon far too often. Perhaps you too need to be in “control” recovery.

You may be a control freak if…

1. You generally think you have a better way of doing most things than those around you. OK, you don’t really want to control other peoples’ lives you just want to help them make better choices, right? You can’t imagine why someone wouldn’t want to learn how they could live more wisely, biblically, be more organized, or manage their money better. Sound like anyone you know?

Here’s what I’m trying to do to correct my problem; I’m trying to get in the habit of making a suggestion once (well, maybe twice) and then let it go. In the past, I just kept reminding them when they chose to disregard my advice, because I thought they’d forgotten or didn’t understand “why” my advice would help them so much. While that could be true, I’m trying to let it go unless they ask for help. It’s one of the hardest things in the world to do, but it won’t kill either one of us!

2. You get angry or frustrated when your advice isn’t taken. A control freak considers it a personal affront that someone would not take their advice. We justify our anger and frustration because we know how much better off others would be if they just listened! The reality is, it’s not the threat to their well-being that’s at the heart of the problems. It’s the threat to us. We feel rejected and our anger comes from the fear that we’re losing influence or control. It’s sin and we better deal with it as such!

3. You think you’re being subtle or sensitive with your suggestions. I once read a review on a book, You’re Not Wearing That Are You? The book is about controlling parents who think they’re not – they’re just concerned their children make the right choices. So, do you find yourself making statements like;

  1. “You’re not wearing that are you?”

  2. “You don’t need to eat that.” (To a spouse or adult child.)

  3. “You’re going to church now aren’t you?” (To an adult child who you suspect isn’t going to church.)

  4. “I have a friend who has your problem and here’s what they did.”

I rarely use any of these statements or questions myself. I’ve developed far more clever ways of controlling others. I use humor or charm an even more subtle ways to give advice. But, I’m told it often stings the other person just as much as the controlling question. Say what you mean and leave it.

4. You’ve been told you’re a controlling person. I’ve been told occasionally I’m a controlling person, by those closest to me. I knew that. But, because in my heart-of-hearts I believed I truly did it out of love, I dismissed it. I believed they just didn’t want to follow my advice and were using that moniker as an excuse not to take it.

Controlling people consider their advice virtuous – who wouldn’t want good sound advice? Probably a number of people in your life, who for all kinds of reasons either agree with your advice, or don’t want it from you!

If you’ve been told you’re a controlling person, take the time to sit down with that person and ask them this question, “Help me understand how you feel controlled by me.” Then listen and ask questions, but do not try to defend, explain or justify yourself. If you feel that need, you probably are a controlling person, even if your intentions are noble. 

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19

My final word of advice is this; if you suspect or have been told you’re a control freak, have the wisdom and the courage to get help. Go to your pastor, your spiritual mentor or Christian therapist. After you have, go to those who’ve accused you of being a control freak, confess it and ask their forgiveness. And finally, give them permission to let you know when it feels like you’re doing it again.

Question:  How have you been controlled by others or control them?

Following Jesus in Real Life

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