Control Must Go
One of the fruits of the Spirit is Self–Control, but that is not the type of control that must go. The control that must go is the practice of controlling others to do our bidding. There are many ways that this is managed, such as violence, threats, blackmail, ridicule, but also whining, nagging, guilt trips, feigning helplessness, etc.
After my husband left me, I joined a group of other abandoned spouses who were believing for the restoration of their marriage. We met once a week to discuss and pray about our situations. None of our marriages were restored, but it was good that we tried the best we knew how to seek reconciliation.
There were a couple of people in that group who picked on me. One lady, in particular, kept badgering me to yield to God in regards to my marriage. I couldn't fathom what she meant. Wasn't I yielding to God by the very fact that I wanted to be reunited with my husband, instead of looking for a new one? What she meant, though, was I was going about it in the wrong way. She didn't clarify that, so I remained confused.
Help came from one of the women who lived in the house where we had our meetings, though she was not part of our Covenant Keepers group. She was an actress, kind of flighty, but sometimes wise. I was sitting at the kitchen table when she flitted into the room and dropped three books on the table, saying, "Here, Lanny, you can have these books, if you want them." Then she skedaddled, just in case I got offended.
I wasn't offended, not even when I realized that the book she wanted me to read was The Pleasers: Women Who Can't Say No And The Men Who Control Them. The other two books were on other topics that did not deal with relationships. I didn't think that I was a pleaser. My ex–husband certainly would not have said so. I had tended to please myself and squawked when I didn't get my own way. I had read another book by the author, Dr. Kevin Leman, which I liked, so I took the book home and read it.
Two chapters in, I was astonished to realize that this book applied to me. I was a pleaser. I had denied my own personality, and health, in attempting to become what was expected of me from others, including my husband. I remembered how, when we were engaged, my husband took me to the PNE and wanted to go on a certain ride that I knew would make me sick. He drooped when I said it would make me throw up. Guilt assailed me as I thought, "He does so much for me; I should do this for him." Yes, I should get sick for him. We went on the ride, blood pounded in my neck and I wanted to puke. I said so, and my beloved callously replied, "Aw, it's all in your head." That was a red flag that should have made me reconsider marrying him, but I was ditzy back then.
The book placed me almost at the bottom of a pyramid describing various pleasers. At the top, was the happy pleaser, the woman who wanted to do the things she did for others. I was second layer from the bottom, a depressed pleaser. Yes, I hated it when my husband drank, drove while drunk, and stayed out all night on many occasions, but I was just a squawking doormat. I should never had tolerated him spending all night away from home, and I should have gotten counselling about his drinking and how I played into it as an enabler.
One way I enabled him was agreeing to have our vehicle signed over into my name, so it didn't cost so much to insure, due to my husband's tickets and drunk driving charge. My head was on the chopping block, if he got into an accident while drunk. I would be liable to pay back the insurance that needed to be paid out, if the occupants of another vehicle sued for damages and for the medical bills.
I worried a lot about my husband getting injured or killed, or injuring or killing someone else while driving impaired. I took out the distributor cap when he got drunk, so that the van wouldn't start. He complained about how hard it was to figure out how to put the cap back on, so the next time I did it, I took paints with me and obligingly colour coded the cap, to make it easy. Really, I should have outright forbidden him to drive MY van, and called the police if he took off in it.
The garbage I put up with in my marriage certainly marked me as a pleaser, but after I accepted that, God showed me through a dream that I was a controller, too. I tried to control my husband with guilt trips, nagging, sulking, yelling, and swearing. If I didn't want other people to succeed in manipulating me, then I needed to repent of trying to control other people's behaviour for my benefit. I needed to trust that God would help me get what I need, if those who should, or could, help me, refuse to do so.
When I heard preaching before about yielding to God, it didn't get through because my mind didn't work that way. God knows how to get through the labyrinth of our individual mind to get a point across. I was more geared to understanding the concept of yielding when it was put in psychological terms, than in that nebulous manner that did not specify what I was doing wrong or how to correct my direction.
I had to deal with some serious controllers in the ensuing years, beginning with dealing with an ex who took off with my children to another province where my granted access and shared guardianship had no legal impact. He blocked me from having any contact with them for five years. I had to trust God to control my life, to bring my kids back at the right time.
They might not agree that it was the right time, wishing that it was earlier, but I wasn't ready for them. I wasn't a bad mother, though there were plenty of ways I could have improved my parenting, but I needed to have a stronger relationship with the Lord and be healed of an inferiority complex and insecurity, in order to deal with two very strong–willed children who had special needs. They are both very intelligent and could have driven me into another nervous breakdown with their willfullness and wileyness, if I hadn't read a lot of books to gain more wisdom and improve my character, as well as gotten counselling and prayer ministry and my pastor's good teaching in church that helped me get over various issues.
Two things that relate to breaking free of the controller/pleaser dynamic are the power to say no to others, and the ability to accept no from others. We need to be able to do both, and to do the latter very graciously, trusting God to do what is best for us.
Return to Life Lessons to access the list of articles.