Updated: Nov 26, 2020
I’ve been mentoring men for 35 years now, and I’ve seen the devastation controlling parents have had on their lives. I’ve met with unbelievably successful men who feel like they still don’t measure up to their parents expectations, and many of those parents are dead!
The intent of this blog is to better understand what may have been done to you and to help you recognize the “sins of the fathers” in yourself and how that may be affecting your own children or grandchildren.
Controlling people believe they are simply helping you be a better person.I’ve never met a controlling person yet, who thought they were controlling. Most truly believe that they are selflessly giving those they care about, good guidance, for their own good. They actually believe they are serving others, by helping them improve their education, sports, finances, dress, posture and personal hygiene.
Controlling people do not take correction well.It would never dawn on them that they may actually be hurting those they’re “helping.” In fact, when controlling parents are told what they are doing to their child, their reaction is almost universally, “why you ungrateful thing!”
Controlling people are almost always the victim of their own controlling parents.Whenever I spend time with a person I believe to be a controlling person, I’ll often ask them to tell me about their parents. Here’s the question I use, “Did both your parents love you unconditionally, or were there often strings attached to their love?” Some answer that question immediately, because they know what they experienced and others more slowly because it feels unkind to criticize their mother or father.
Controlling people often see themselves as victims.“I resent you calling me controlling. I’m trying hard to make you successful for your good. This isn’t about me. It’s for you. Now you’re taking my good intentions and making ME the problem. Well, I guess that’s just the price I have to pay to help you.” Sound familiar?
These traits are so easy to see in others, but rarely do we see them in ourselves. So, how do we guard ourselves against controlling people and against ourselves from controlling others?
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
Boundaries, by Townsend and Cloud is one of the best Christian books on this topic. Their subtitle sums it up well: When To Say Yes, How To Say No To Take Control Of Your Life. This book is a classic in Christian literature, for people who need to learn how to set boundaries for themselves and others.
Listen, truly listen, to people who tell you you are controlling. True confession: I have enough self-awareness to know that I am a strong willed person and I know I can control others by the force of my personality. And like I said previously, I truly believe I’m helping them. But I don’t always know how I’m being perceived by others when I’m doing it. So when I hear people say to me, “Clare you need to let it go,” or “we’re not going to do it your way,” or “thank you for your advice, but…” generally Holy Spirit alarm bells go off, and I realize I need to STOP!To be a leader requires confidence in your skills and experience. And to lead means that you will occasionally need to argue your case persuasively. However, a leader who is so arrogant that they cannot recognize they could be wrong, or find it hard to listen to or accept the counsel of others is a fool.“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7
Daily, ask for “Holy Spirit wisdom” and discernment for when you may be guilty of controlling others. Pride is the occupational hazard of gifted people. I repeat that often, but I don’t always see it in myself. I need to and so do you if God has gifted you in some area. Empower a few people close to you to remind you when and if, you’re pushing too hard, or obviously relying on your talents, and not on God for success.
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” 2 Timothy 2:24
How following Jesus works in real life.
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