Control: Real and false control.

I read a story about a man in his 30s who was a multimillionaire. He had a beautiful home with a thick, blue shag carpet. Some of his friends and family began to notice a peculiar behavior he had. He couldn’t stand to have the shag carpet messed up. If people walked across it and left footprints, it drove him nuts. The carpet even had to be vacuumed in even rows. If the rows were not even and pointing in the same direction, he would redo it. He vacuumed that carpet‚ or had his maid do it‚ on a daily basis, if not more. Was the carpet dirty? Or was something else going on in this man’s life?

Have you ever known anyone who always had to have things his (or her) way? It doesn’t take long to recognize these people because they suck the life out of those around them. Many people have control issues. It takes a variety of complex forms and is manifested‚ many times unrecognized or acknowledged‚ through personalities‚ work habits‚ relationship aspects‚ or spirituality. There is the “neat person” who keeps things excessively clean and orderly in his home‚ bedroom‚ closets‚ kitchen‚ or car. The excessively neat person will have every pen‚ paper and paper clip in perfect formation and symmetry on his desk. Anything out of order will drive him crazy. Then there is the “charmer,” who is a very good communicator with a smooth‚ magnetic personality. Charmers are usually highly intelligent and can use their minds‚ words, and slick personalities to basically get people to do whatever they want in such a subtle way that most people don’t have a clue the charmer has just controlled them. There is the “sergeant” who barks out orders and uses fear and intimidation to keep everyone and everything in order. Back seat drivers can be an example of a sergeant. There are business people who are so excessively organized with work‚ time‚ checkbooks‚ etc.‚ that any unexpected circumstance outside of their schedule may send them into a frenzy. Control-type people have a false sense of security within the little world they are the center of. Keeping things in order brings peace, even though it is false peace‚ just like a drug addict takes a drug and has peace for a while, until the next drug fix is needed.

Is control a bad thing? No. It depends on the type of control and what the motive behind it is. Back to the man with the blue shag carpet. Wanting to have our carpet clean is fine. Wanting to have it excessively clean on a daily basis is not fine because then it is no longer a carpet issue, but a heart issue. Whether it is a carpet‚ other objects‚ or people‚ controlling things can become a means of escaping what is really going on. People with control issues attempt to direct things on the outside to compensate for feeling out of control with their emotions on the inside. The more they feel out of control emotionally, the more they try to control people and circumstances. So‚ control itself is not a bad thing, it just depends on if it is “real” or “false” control.

False Control

False control is when someone does not deal with his emotions and attempts to escape by redirecting his thoughts and actions in a controlling manner. It is no coincidence that everyone I have ever met who had a control issue also had some kind of family brokenness in their background.

When children grow up in a chaotic atmosphere, they feel out of control. To survive and cope as children, we may unconsciously choose to bring control over things, otherwise we fear we will be hurt worse, or even die. So for survival‚ control can begin as a good thing. Yet as the years go by, we need to get help for the emotional damage that initiated our controlling‚ or we will probably continue with our survival mechanism of control. We are now no longer children, so the protective control device can be put aside because we survived whatever it was that caused us to retreat for safety and control in the first place. We don’t need to control the world anymore. We made it! We survived!

Yet‚ some stay locked in control mode, perhaps because they forgot why they began controlling in the first place. Behind every controlling person there will be some kind of emotional and psychological wound that was never allowed to surface and heal, like workaholics who had an alcoholic parent. They began working hard decades earlier to survive and escape their parent’s addiction. Stuck in that mode, they continue to work nonstop as an attempt to keep controlling what is no longer in need of control. They are simply running from air‚ controlling the wind. It is a waste of time and energy. The only way they will be able to stop overworking and controlling is to remember why they began controlling in the first place. Are you a controlling person? What is the motive and root of it?

Real Control

It is in the letting go and accepting of reality that real control begins. Real control brings peace‚ contentment, and confidence in knowing life ultimately is out of our control. Allowing ourselves to accept any past or current emotional pain and trauma, and then work through it, takes the edge‚ pressure, and compulsion off our lives. The need to control slowly fades because there is nothing left that needs to be controlled. When we deal with our wounds‚ whether it is an alcoholic parent‚ physical or sexual abuse‚ death of a loved one‚ etc.‚ it liberates us. Ultimately‚ we have been trying to control the control our past had on us. Now‚ through the changing power of Jesus Christ, the past loses its control over us; therefore‚ we no longer need to control the uncontrollable. We can now have real control by allowing Jesus Christ to be in charge of our past‚ present, and future! Relaxing and living by faith brings the much needed peace we all look for our entire lives.

Do you struggle with a control issue? Do things always have to be done your way? When the struggles and stresses of life come, do you feel an uncontrollable compulsion to clean‚ work‚ drink‚ have sex‚ etc.‚ for long periods of time? Do you binge? If so‚ the following are some things that can help identify our control issues so we can work through them and move from false control to real control. Jesus loves you and me and we don’t have to control everything any more. It is ok to let go and let Christ have control!