I will never forget my fifth birthday party. It stands out in my mind not just because my parents threw a really fun party complete with “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” and a piñata, but also because it was my first experience with a controlling person- a five-year old girl named Jenny.
Jenny was a neighborhood girl who lived about four houses down on the same side of the street as mine. We played outside together and inside each other’s houses doing what little girls do- dolls, dress up, hide-and-seek, and any other sort of fun we could muster up. There is little drama in a five-year-old’s world. Well, little for me until my birthday.
It all went down when it was time for me to open the gifts. I was sitting with all of my friends in my living room surrounded by presents. My mom began passing a gift to me, one at a time. As I opened a gift, Jenny began opening another one. My mom or another parent told her to hold off and let me open my gifts. Did Jenny listen? No. She kept tearing through the packages as if it was her party and those were her gifts. Eventually, my Grandmama firmly told her to stop, and Jenny then got the message. Grandmama for the save!
To this day, I wish I spoke up and told Jenny to stop, myself. She bothered me, I felt anxious, and I did not know what to do about it. I didn’t want to lose her friendship, and even as a five-year-old I was eager to please.
Sometimes I still resort to my five-year-old compliant self, minimizing the hurt and devaluing my desires. For years I went on like this, letting people take advantage of me (I thought I was being helpful), criticizing me (I deserved it?), and patronizing me (They are older, smarter, cooler…little me should listen to them). It wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized what was going on. It took most of my twenties to grow in confidence and gain a strong sense of who I was in Christ. When I finished my schooling and entered a career, I understood that not every person is a safe person. I discovered that just because someone is nice and eager to know me does not mean that he or she is someone I should let into my life. It didn’t take too much time to determine who the safe and unsafe people were. Today, it takes even less time.
I don’t have the time or the energy to allow people to control me, and you don’t either. The question is, do you know if you are allowing people to control you? I didn’t for the longest time. It took some hurt feelings, a couple bad boyfriends, and wise counsel to help me recognize that I was being controlled. You may be allowing people to control you if you are:
- Neglecting what needs to be done to take care of what others want you to do
- Saying “Yes” often and not saying “No” enough.
- Dropping everything to answer that email, phone call, txt, direct message, etc.
- Asking for permission when it is not needed instead of taking initiative without others’ consent (i.e. pursuing your dreams/goals, having ambition without apologies)
- Having trouble sleeping over what someone may think about you or a decision you made
- Worried about losing a friendship because you did not fulfill their wishes or demands
- Needing a certain person’s approval before you launch out on a task or project
- Allowing someone to turn you into a project disguised as a friendship (insecure people look for projects to promote themselves–forced mentoring—never settle for a top/down relationship when you are seeking a lateral friendship)
- Fearful of speaking out or sharing personal opinions
If you have of these thoughts or behaviors, you may be allowing others to control you. Not everyone is your boss. Your boss is your boss. When we are called to submit, we do so out of reverence for Christ, not out of fear (see Ephesians 5:21) for God has not given us a spirit of fear (see also 2 Timothy 1:7).
Want to know how you can tell if someone has a controlling personality? Say “No.” That person’s response to your refusal to comply to their expectations or demands will reveal whether or not she is for you. If she is for you then she may be disappointed, but she will not write off the friendship. If she has an ulterior motive, then her true colors will come through soon enough.
I am writing this because there are women out there who feel stuck due to unhealthy relationships. There are some relationships (like family) that we cannot simply step out of, so strong boundaries will have to be drawn. Often when we find ourselves in a situation where we feel like we are being controlled it is more of a boundary issue than anything. Controlling people hate boundaries. Our need to not offend or disappoint keeps us from living free lives as individuals. We do not need everyone to like us. It is better to have a few strong, healthy relationships with mutual love and respect than to have a lot of unhealthy ones with a bit in our mouths. Love all, yes, but only accept those in your life who are for you. This is the point, and this is the question to ask yourself, “Who is for me?” Who genuinely has my best interest at heart- not trying to sell me something, treat me as a pet project, or take advantage of me?
In order for us to give of our lives, grow as women of God, and lead others to do the same we need to not be held captive under other people’s control. There is only One whom we are to be controlled by- our Maker, King, Redeemer, and God- the One who has our best interest at heart- the One who is truly for us.
I’ll leave you with this:
Paul addressed the churches at Galatia concerning false teachers who were distorting the gospel. Some people in those churches were turning away from the true gospel allowing the false teachers to control their thinking. Paul asserted that the gospel he received was not a “man’s gospel,” but that he received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Paul did not care what people thought of him. His chief concern was preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, the true gospel, regardless of how people would react to it or what they would do to him.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” Galatians 1:10.
Let’s seek to be more controlled by the Spirit and less by other people. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free, so let’s live that way unapologetically.