Thursday, February 22, 2007

Concerned or Controlling?

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret -- it only leads to evil. Psalm 37

Have you ever helplessly watched a loved one make a mistake and suffer for it? Have you ever wished that you could protect your loved ones, to the point of lashing out at someone who hurts a family member? Have you ever longed to control the outcome of a situation, but either you couldn't or it wasn't appropriate for you to do so? Have you ever been guilty of meddling -- of sticking your nose in something when it wasn't your business to do so? I have.

As women, we care about our husbands, our children, and our homes. We care about our extended family, our church, our neighbors, and our society. We want everyone to be in a right relationship with God, to be happy, to be healthy, and to have their needs met.

Caring about others is a good thing. God wants us to love our husbands and our children and to take care of our homes. He wants us to share the gospel and to defend the cause of the needy and the helpless. He wants us to speak up if someone is doing something harmful to themselves or to others, provided we do so with gentleness and respect. He wants us to give others support, love, and, when appropriate advice or correction.

However, we get into trouble when we cross the line from caring to controlling. Sometimes, we step over this line with the best of intentions. We want what is best for another's welfare.

At other times, our motives are mixed with the impurities of selfishness, anger, and fear. We may fool ourselves into thinking we know what's best for another person. But, the case may truly be that we want them to behave according to our own agenda.

Whatever the various motivations might be, we can trace our attempts to over-control situations and people back to one root: We aren't, in the moment, trusting God.

How do we know if we have crossed the line from being concerned to controlling? Here are some possible symptoms:

1) We pray superficially about a concern, but we don't really leave it in God's hands. We end our prayer too quickly, with our spirit still unsettled and un-surrendered. Even after we've prayed, we keep brooding and fretting.
2) We voice a concern or a desire to a loved one, but we don't leave it there. We keep nagging.
3) We find ourselves becoming nervous, uptight, anxious, pushy, touchy, or domineering. We set standards for other people that aren't in the Bible, and we become angry with people when they don't fall in line with our ideas.
4) We hold imaginary conversations in our head in which we rebuke someone who has hurt us. Or, we mentally take someone to task because they have hurt a person we love. Or, we re-hash past conversations and kick ourselves for not doing or saying the right thing.
5) We fail to distinguish between those times when God calls us to act and those times when he wants us to wait on him. We also fail to distinguish between righteous indignation and self-righteous contempt.
6) We find it hard to be merciful and forgiving. We keep mulling over hurts that have been done to us or to people we love.
7) We find it hard to trust our husband's leadership or to work with him as a one-flesh team. Or, we find it hard to let our children grow up into mature adults. Or, we find it hard to trust anyone we perceive as having the power to hurt us in some way.

When we are concerned, we are able to evaluate a situation calmly. We are able to pray about it and surrender it to God. We can then speak, act, or be silent, as God directs. We can give support to another person, or we can be the person who waits with open arms for a prodigal to come home. We can give counsel when appropriate. Even if we must say tough things to or draw some hard lines with another person, we can do so in a controlled manner.

When we seek to control others, we are anything but self-controlled. (That's ironic, isn't it?). We cannot evaluate the situation calmly. We do not surrender it totally to God. We speak and act in haste, and we often regret our words and our actions later.

If we find ourselves being controlling rather than concerned, what's the cure?

1) Identify and repent of any worry, lack of faith, and anger. Put on trust, compassion, and kindness. See Colossians Chapter 3
2) Trust in the Lord and do good according to God's instructions. Let God take care of the big picture. See Psalm 37. Put your hope in the Lord and do what is right without giving way to fear. Remember that a meek and quiet spirit has greater influence than a fretful, irritable, or controlling spirit. See I Peter Chapters Two and Three.
4) Pray about everything. Worry about nothing. Fill your mind with noble things. Be grateful. Put God's word into practice. Focus on doing the good you can do, rather than worrying about what you can't. See Phil. Chapter 4
5) If you are concerned about someone, remember that God loves them even more than you do. Do not doubt God's ability or desire to work in the life of your loved one. Do not doubt his desire to hear your prayers on behalf of others -- whether its regarding individuals or groups. See I Timothy 2:1-3 Also, leave room for others to learn and grow, and allow yourself the chance to learn and grow, as well. See Phil. 3:15-16.



Julieann said...

Oh wow Elizabeth--I sure needed to read that today--how did you know? What a fantastic post, you have such a wonderful way with words.

Thank you--


Anonymous said...

Great post Elizabeth!

We hold imaginary conversations in our head in which we rebuke someone who has hurt us or someone has hurt a person we love. Or, we re-hash past conversations and kick ourselves for not doing or saying the right thing Lol, I do this all too often!!

Elizabeth said...

Hi Sarah and Julieann!

I was writing as much to myself as to anyone. :)


Emma said...

Excellent post! Do you mind if I link to it?


Elizabeth said...

Hi Emma,

Feel free to link.