We build our lives with our own works; as our choices and plans unfold, we get to see the results of them. However, if we are not careful with our reactions and responses, we can unwittingly destroy our lives and those around us. There are many ways that people control others, many ways are engrained in them, and they might not even know they are doing it. By recognizing the ways that we control others and are controlled by others, we can pinpoint the places in our lives that we are tearing down our houses, and protect ourselves from others who are tearing down theirs- with us inside!
One way that people control others is through pouting and crying. I’m not talking about real sadness and brokenness coming out; what I mean is dramatic efforts to draw attention to yourself in order to get what you want. I’m sure that you have seen movies or commercials where a woman pouts because she wants something, and her husband gives in. That’s acting like a child! But adults are prone to do this when they want to control someone. In the past, I’ve found myself getting upset about something my husband said, and then going to bed to pout. I’ve even started crying, just loud enough to get his attention! This is the equivalent of an adult temper tantrum.
Most people probably see pouting as a ‘woman’s issue’, but the Bible actually shares a story about a grown man pouting to get his way. In 1 Kings 21, King Ahab asked a neighbor, Naboth, for his vineyard, offering money or another, better vineyard for it. Naboth refused, and in verse 4, it says that Ahab came home, threw himself onto the bed, and pouted, refusing to eat. This behavior was meant to draw attention to his suffering, ‘poor baby’. It worked, however, because his wife Jezebel came in and asked him what was wrong. When Ahab explained the situation, Jezebel became enraged, and told her husband that she would take care of it. Do you see how his behavior got the reaction that he desired? Fix this for me, he was saying. Jezebel became what psychology calls an enabler.
There are two categories of control, active control, and passive control. Jezebel was controlling her husband’s reactions by feeding into them, passively. Some people use this method to ‘keep’ people. Fixers sweep in and become the savior of someone elses’s life in order to always be needed. People do this all the time, fixing everything, because we tell ourselves that they really need us and if we don’t help them, they might get help from someone else. This causes others to become passive over time and depend on you to make them happy. You have essentially controlled their behavior by giving them what they want all the time. This isn’t a way to live, because it expects us to run, run, run all of the time. There is no peace in trying to control everything around you, rather than letting others make decisions and reap the consequences of those decisions.
There are other types of control that are very common, nagging, criticizing, and even dragging other people in to do our dirty work. Nagging and criticizing are active control, where we try to use belittling and irritating in order to get what we want. Some of us are on the other end of this, but if you aren’t, imagine how exhausting it is to have someone consistently telling you that everything about you is wrong and annoying! When a child whines or nags you for something, usually you shut them down-send them to their room! A spouse can’t send you to your room, but it might drive them to their room, or out the door. Sometimes, myself included, we confuse ‘venting to others’ with ‘getting people riled up so they will get on our side’. This is hidden control, passive attacks, where we secretly hope that if someone else knows how badly we are being treated, they will feel enticed to speak up on our behalf.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you recognize yourself in this, there are ways to work through it and focus on your behavior in the future. If you recognize signs of behavior that other people have used to control you, you can now be more aware that it is meant to manipulate the way you think and feel. Control is not in God’s will for our lives, in fact, He wants us to all be free. If we control others, they cannot follow His will and be free, and if others are controlling us, we are not free. Control is a form of pride, based on fear. We control because we believe we know best, and because we fear allowing someone to make their own choices, especially choices that go against what we desire. If pride is the center or control, then battling it is based in humility and trusting God.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. 1 Peter 5:6