Control freaks. We all know them. The people who have to have everything their way. The ones who micromanage and can’t relinquish control. The folks who insist on controlling people and situations.
Control freaks come in many forms. There are controlling spouses, parents, friends, bosses, and co-workers. Their need to control stems from deep-seated insecurity, fear, pride, or sinful desires. While their intentions may be good, their methods cause discord, strife, and pain.
As Christians, what does the Bible say about dealing with control freaks? And if we’re honest, what does it say about overcoming our own controlling tendencies? Let’s explore what scripture teaches.
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- God calls us to humble submission, not control
- Controlling people need God’s love and grace
- We must set healthy boundaries with controllers
- The root of control is pride and lack of trust in God
- We find freedom by surrendering control to Christ
- God can redeem controlling people
- Key Takeaways:
- Controlling Tendencies Grow from Bad Roots
- Godly Wisdom for Relating to Controllers
- What Does the Bible Say About Our Controlling Tendencies?
- 5 Keys to Loving Controlling People as Jesus Would
- Conclusion: The Way of Surrender is the Way of Freedom
Controlling Tendencies Grow from Bad Roots
To understand what the Bible says about control freaks, we must first recognize where the desire to control comes from. Scripture points to several unhealthy root causes:
Pride seeks position and power. A prideful person wants to be “on top” and dominate others. The book of Proverbs warns, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2). And, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). A controller’s pride causes them to think they know best and should be in charge. But God opposes the proud (James 4:6).
Lack of Trust
Controllers often believe they can’t trust other people to do things correctly. This lack of trust may result from perfectionism or insecurity about their own abilities. But the root is a lack of faith in both God and people. The Bible calls us to trust that God is ultimately in control, saying “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
Need for Security
Fear and anxiety drive many controllers. They feel an excessive need to secure themselves and their environment. The unknown terrifies them. But scripture assures us, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3). Though fear feels out of control, we can choose to trust God with unknown future outcomes.
Some desire authority simply to fulfill selfish ambitions. Jesus confronted the Pharisees for loving positions of honor and authority (Matthew 23:6-7). Seeking control to stroke our ego or achieve selfish aims is sinful pride.
Past trauma and pain often feed controlling tendencies. Hurts from the past may drive hypervigilance about the present. However, we find healing in Christ. As Isaiah prophesied about the coming Messiah, “He took up our pain and bore our suffering” (Isaiah 53:4). Turning to Jesus helps us overcome wounds that lead to unhealthy patterns.
Recognizing these root causes can help both controllers and those affected understand the true source. Our flesh tends toward pride and fear. But scripture guides us toward humility, faith, security in Christ, selfless service, and healing.
Godly Wisdom for Relating to Controllers
Once we identify unhealthy control issues, how do we respond in a godly way? The Bible offers much wisdom.
Pray for Discernment
Ask God for discernment in navigating relationships with controllers. We need wisdom to understand their motives and figure out what boundaries need to be set. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Pray for insight into the controller’s fears so you can respond in love.
Set Healthy Boundaries
While we aim to show grace, we must also set healthy boundaries with controlling people. We should not enable sin or harmful behaviors. As Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” When controllers refuse correction, limiting contact may be warranted. Letting people repeatedly hurt you is not the biblical model of love.
Speak the Truth in Love
Sometimes we need to confront controllers and speak truth. But we must do so gently and without judgment. Ephesians 4:15 says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Speak firmly but lovingly. Controllers likely don’t see their harmful behaviors. Lovingly help them see.
Model Godly Virtues
Rather than retaliate against domineering people, model submission and humility. Peter wrote, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God” (1 Peter 2:12). Kill controllers with kindness. Set an example of living virtuously under unfair authority.
Keep Your Eyes on Christ
When dealing with controllers, stay focused on Jesus’ example. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Don’t get distracted trying to fix or change the person. Keep your eyes on following Christ, even when mistreated.
Let Go of Resentment
Though controllers hurt us, we must forgive and let go of resentment. Hebrews 12:15 warns, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Don’t let bitterness take root. Keep a heart of grace and release harsh feelings to God.
Set an Example of Repentance
Model humility and repentance to controlling people. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Apologize when appropriate. Demonstrate repentance when you respond sinfully to mistreatment. Your humility can inspire change.
Approaching controllers prayerfully and virtuously honors Christ. With discernment and courage, we can maintain boundaries while also showing grace. Our example can plant seeds of repentance and restoration.
What Does the Bible Say About Our Controlling Tendencies?
Scripture offers just as much conviction and counsel for those of us who struggle with controlling tendencies. We need to take an honest look at our attempts to exert undue power over people and situations.
Examine Your Motives
The first step is to humbly examine our hearts. Why do we feel compelled to control? Do we act out of insecurity, fear, pride, selfishness or pain? Jeremiah 17:9 warns, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Ask God to reveal sinful motives and wounds that drive your need for control.
Confess and Repent
Once aware of unhealthy motives, confess this to God as sin and turn away from it. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Repentance is a process, but keep taking steps toward humility and faith.
Abide in Christ
At the root of controlling tendencies is often an unwillingness to fully abide in Christ. We try to control everything because deep down we lack trust that Jesus has us safely in His hands. Jesus invites us, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you” (John 15:4). Rest in His presence.
Freedom comes when we surrender control to the Lord. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). “Surrender yourselves to the Lord, and you will be guided” (James 4:7). Let go of perceived power and let God be God.
Walk in the Spirit
Rather than operating in the flesh, we must walk in the Spirit. “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). Yield moment by moment to the Spirit to avoid sinful control.
Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus as your model of selfless humility. Philippians 2:5-8 says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Receive God’s Love
At the root of unhealthy control is often a lack of receiving God’s love. The more we receive His unconditional love and acceptance, the less we feel compelled to control. “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:16). Keep receiving God’s love.
Find Identity in Christ
Insecurity leads to control. But scripture reminds us of our true identity in Christ. “To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). When we find identity in Him, we no longer need to control anything.
Walking in humility, faith, surrender, and obedience frees us from control. Our weaknesses and wounds find healing at the cross of Christ. We can live and love as Jesus did – selflessly submitting to the Father’s purposes yet boldly surrendering outcomes to Him. What freedom we gain when we relinquish the need for control!
5 Keys to Loving Controlling People as Jesus Would
Having explored the biblical roots of control issues, how then do we love controllers in a Christlike way?
1. See Beneath the Surface
Remember that controlling tendencies reveal inner fears and wounds. There is often pain under the mask of perfectionism or domination. Philippians 2:4 says, “In humility value others above yourselves.” Ask Jesus to show you controllers through His eyes of compassion.
2. Set Firm Boundaries
While empathizing, don’t allow inappropriate control or manipulation. Establish what behaviors you will tolerate. Kindness and grace don’t mean allowing abuse. As Proverbs 27:6 says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted.” Speak truth to controllers in love.
3. Guard Against Resentment
Don’t let bitterness toward controllers take root in your heart. Romans 12:21 teaches, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Ask God to help you forgive. Pray blessing over them. Be patient and kind.
4. Wait on God to Change Them
Don’t nag controllers to change. Trust God’s work in their hearts. “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance” (Proverbs 1:5). Pray for their humility. Let God handle the results.
5. Hope for Redemption
Have hope for God to redeem controllers in His timing. “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Psalm 103:3). Believe God desires to set them free from bondage to control like He has for you.
Loving controllers like Jesus requires much grace. But we have endless grace to draw upon through Christ! He will empower us to show compassion and speak truth – leaving people’s response in His hands.
Conclusion: The Way of Surrender is the Way of Freedom
From examining scripture, we learn that seeking to control people and outcomes is contrary to God’s wisdom and desires for our lives. Though the temptation comes from many angles, it stems from corrupted motives and lack of trust.
Yet we can find freedom when we fully surrender control to the Lord. His love casts out the insecurity, wounds, and pride at the root of our need to control. We become free to love others as Christ loves us.
The way of surrender is the path to joy and peace. As we let go of power and trust the Lord’s purposes, we are empowered to love others humbly. We can set healthy boundaries yet still show compassion even to those who hurt us. And we can have hope that God’s redeeming grace can eventually set controlling people free.
The Bible makes clear that attempting to control leads only to strife and pain. But choosing the path of humility, faith and surrender allows God’s love to shine through us. May we walk in His transforming grace each day.