Who’s In Charge, Anyway?

southern_ocean_storm_000.jpgYou know fear.  That jagged, raw edge of fear.  Your stomach draws up in knots.  Adrenaline surges through your veins.  You may know what it is to experience a
constant anxiety.  Maybe you have become a brooding
worrier.  You fear that things won’t work
out. Some fears happen during
the storms we face (Mark 4:38-40).  Then, there are the
fears that occur after the storm
(4:41), when we reflect on what we have been going through.


We could make quite a lists of things that elicit fear in us:

  • Cancer
  • An unwanted divorce
  • The death of one of our children
  • The death of a parent
  • Financial ruin
  • Loss of a job
  • The end of an enjoyable career
  • Having to live with chronic pain
  • Being seen as incompetent
  • Hearing that there has been another terrorist attack in our country


Yet, there are other fears we have that may not seem quite as intense as some of the situations above.  I think what so many of us fear is a complete loss of control.  


You’ve been around the control freak haven’t you?  At times, you may almost feel smothered by someone trying very hard to manage every detail of a situation.  And, there are often people who would love to manage the details of your life.  If you balk at their attempt to manage your life, they might try to couch the situation as an attitude problem on your part.  


Some of the anger and resentment that can be found in many ministers can sometimes be traced back to years of passively allowing other people to micro-manage their lives.  When the minister has few or even no boundaries, such people are then allowed to take over their lives. 


Very often the spouse of this minister as well as the children begins to resent this, which only creates more problems later.  Years ago, one of my children was in a Bible class in which she was singled out by a teacher.  "You ought to know this answer.  You are the preacher’s daughter."  Hmmm.  That week, I went to this woman and had to draw some boundaries.  I told her, "When you do that, you don’t help my daughter at all.  She feels ‘different.’  You also complicate my life as a parent.  Please do not ever refer to her as ‘the preacher’s daughter’ in class again."  She was very gracious and received that very well.  (She just wasn’t thinking about the implications of her words.)   


Yet, some ministers and other church leaders are really into control as well.  There is quite a difference in leadership and control.  Churches need leadership.  Churches do not need people who are trying to control the thinking and behavior of people.  (I’m not saying a church should not hold to its view of biblical doctrine or have certain ethical standards.  I’m talking about trying to control and manipulate others.)


The good news about Jesus is that he is the only head of the church.  He is the one in charge.  He is in complete control.  Yet, sometimes, we want to take over.  After all, isn’t he asleep in the back of the boat (Mark 4:35-41)?  The truth, however, is that he will hear our prayers.  He is not far away. 


Does any of this speak to you?  Have you had to deal with people who seemed to want to control or manage you?  How have you dealt with that?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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13 thoughts on “Who’s In Charge, Anyway?

  1. I have to deal with a supervisor who is coercive, manipulative, and controlling.  I don’t always deal with her very well.  Perhaps someone could suggest methods they have found that work well for them?  I have tried reading the Psalms, which is good, and I do pray for her and pray about my attitude, which helps.  But sometimes something she does will catch me off guard and I respond in a less than gracious way.  I want to have the mind of Christ and to be controlled by the Spirit at all times, but I haven’t arrived there yet.

  2. There are two very distinct concepts that I hear coming from this post.  Since I am a minister, I understand full well the concept of boundaries.  Since I also lend toward the control freak side, I understand that part as well.Somewhere along the way I’ve justified my control as a commitment to present God with the best offering possible.  While I don’t think I cross the lines in controlling others (I am very big on developing and empowering others), I have noticed where my attention to detail is translated as a lack of trust in others.  I have been repeated convicted (as I am this morning) that my need to control is a sure sign that I’m trying to walk by sight and not by faith.  Thank you for the great start to the day. 

  3. Connie:  I spent several years in management before entering full-time ministry.  I don’t claim to have absolute knowledge or pretend that iIcan fix your situation without having lived it, but I surely sympathize with you.  Heres the bullet list of my comments:-  True solution will only come through true communication.  You’ve got to find a way to talk about it.-  Play dumb and mirror with questions.  This gives the appearance of humility while communicating the message.  My favorite is "Did you intend to communicate that (you can’t trust me, you don’t like me, you feel like you have to trick me into working, etc.) when you said ________."  Please adjust for your situation.-  Read "Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: The Paradox of Personal Dysfunction" by McIntosh and Rima.  This is really aimed at finding problems in ourselves, but the explanations given as to why certain negative leadership manifestation occurs can give you insight into what may be causing the problem and can allow you to pray more specifically for those issues.Hope this helps.

  4. I have dealt with both sides of this issue.  I’ve been a manipulator and I’ve been manipulated. 
    As a manipulator, when I tried to affect people’s decisions, it has always been well intended.  I really wanted to help certain people make decisions that would serve them well in life.  God spoke to me and asked me why I though I knew what they needed.  I then started to be much more careful.  I’ve tried to ask more questions, listen more than speak, and only give advice when directly asked (and even then, I don’t always think I need to weigh in).  I remind myself often that only God knows the big picture and only HE can direct each person in the way they need to go. 
    In the meantime, I found myself in relationships with people who were unsatisfied with the change.  They wanted me to make all their decisions for them;  I’d been doing it for years.  As I’ve pulled back, they’ve been frustrated.  When I explain –  God alone knows the big picture and we need to seek Him, it leaves them even more frustrated with me.  They have simply allowed me to lead them for years, and don’t know how to find answers for themselves. 
    Some of the relationships have survived and even flourished.  Some have not. 
    I appologize for the length of this response to your post.  It seems you’ve hit on a topic that looms large for me. 
    Having been on both sides of this issue, I understand the importance of being careful to give people space to find their own answers. 
    I hope to never again cross the line by manipulating anyone. 

  5. I began my sermon last Sunday with an apology and asking forgiveness for a statement I’d made the previous Sunday in which I was far controlling from the pulpit. It happens. Fortunately, my church family graced me with an apology received and forgiveness extended. I heard someone once comment, "If the people know and love you, it doesn’t matter what you preach. And if they don’t know and love you, it doesn’t matter what you preach."

  6. Connie,Just read your post and also read Brad’s response to your post.  What he said sounds very good to me.  That situation must be so frustrating.  I hope some of what he suggests is helpful. 

  7. Brad,Thanks!  You clarify this issue really well.  I can see how someone who is very attentive to detail (I thank the Lord for people like you! 🙂 can come across at times at not trusting others.  I think I have also known some who are not attentive to detail be just as controling in the way they dealt with people.  They say, "We are just going to trust God."  They put enormous pressure on others to learn to trust God like they have.   That spirit can be just as controling.

  8. Julie,I’m so glad you left this comment!  You tell an encouraging story of your desire to change this kind of behavior.  Good for you!Thanks for being willing to express this on this blog.

  9. I think this is why Jesus taught that the meek will inherit the earth.  There’s something about being micro-managed that is very undignified–it insults our humanity.  The meek don’t force an agenda.  And none was ever more meek than Moses, one of the greatest leaders of all time.  If we try to micro-manage or manipulate the growth of a tiny tree it will starve for sunlight in our shadow.  We need to be better gardners, making much more room for God’s grace in the lives of others and insisting on enough space for His grace to nourish our own souls.

  10. I’m not sure how I got to your blog this afternoon, but, man, I’ve read over your last several entries and have pretty much been in tears. (Especially the one about envy.)
    I can relate to Julie. I am trying so so hard to break the cycle of manipulation and I fall so often. This last week has been one of those times. I have had to ask for forgiveness, as well, but do not know yet if it will be given. I keep thinking that I’m going to get it right one of these days- but here I am 30 years old and still screwing up!!!!

  11. Erin,I am glad that you came to this blog.  I am glad that in some way what you read was helpful.  That is a positive.Sounds like you are very aware of places in your life where you are failing or have failed.  I want to encourage you to hang on.  Life can be completly overwhelming and then on top of that is our human failure and sin.  Take life one day at a time.  Continue to bring your failures before God.  Trust that his grace is larger than your capacity to fail.I hope you will come back, Erin.  Those who read this blog come from many places but one thing we have in common– our desperate need for God.   

  12. Have you been reading my mail? This really speaks to several issues I’ve been wrestling with recently. I appreciated your good work, brother! Blessings,-bill