Saturday, September 6, 2008

Characteristics of Control

What I week I've had! I have once again seen the ugly affects that control and manipulation can have over a person. There are controlling leaders out there who will go to any length to protect their own image, while hurting innocent people in the process. I so want people to see the truth and escape from this ungodly control!

Evidently this very thing has been going on throughout the history of the church. A friend pointed something out to me in the Message Bible. It's not a scripture, but it's the introduction to the book of Galatians. Here is a portion of that introduction......

"When men and women get their hands on religion, one of the first things they often do is turn it into an instrument for controlling others, either putting or keeping them "in their place." The history of such religious manipulation and coercion is long and tedious. It is little wonder that people who have only known religion on such terms experience release or escape from it as freedom. The problem is that the freedom turns out to be short-lived. Paul was doing his best to add yet another chapter to this dreary history when he was converted by Jesus to something radically and entirely different - a free life in God. Through Jesus, Paul learned that God was not an impersonal force to be used to make people behave in certain prescribed ways, but a personal Savior who set us free to live a free life. God did not coerce us from without, but set us free from within. Paul learned that religious leaders of the old school had come into the churches, called his views and authority into question, and were reintroducing the old ways, herding all these freedom-loving Christians back into the corral of religious rules and regulations. Paul was furious with the old guard for coming in with their strong-arm religious tactics and intimidating the Christians into giving up their free life in Jesus. But he was also furious with the Christians for caving in to the intimidation. Freedom is a delicate and subtle gift, easily perverted and often squandered."

It seems to me that Paul was passionate about making people aware of this control that leaders were trying to have. That's where I am today. Paul wrote about the affects it would have on people because he wanted them to be free and I want the same. I want people to be free! It's time for people to fall into the arms of a loving God instead of falling into the hands of a controlling leader!

Please understand my heart. I know there are great churches who are doing it right. I have been to some of them and I go to a church where the pastor says, "We are all in this together." I know there are Christian leaders and ministers who are loving people and teaching the true Word of God, but there is a faction out there that is controlling and manipulating, and innocent people are falling prey to it. My purpose in sharing this is not to keep things stirred up in the hearts of people who have been through this. If you are already free, you can stop reading. I am sharing this in hopes that those who are still in bondage to this control will see it for what it is.

One of the biggest areas I see is the confusion it brings to young men and women who are trying to build their lives and ministries. They are told to respect and honor their leader, and they are given no choice but to bend under the rule and even accept mistreatment that comes their way. They are told, "If you do it our way, everything will go well for you." People are being trained in a culture of control which forces them to conform to a way of life that is ruled by guilt and manipulation. Can't you see how this can suck the very life out of a person who is only trying to love and serve God? Because there is no grace and love shown to them, it makes them have a sour taste for the church as a whole. This should not be! I want people to escape from the clutches of control, and see that Jesus provided a wonderful life of freedom for all of His people! I want people to see that God is totally the opposite of this control men try to use over them! I want people to just know how much God loves them!

I have been reading from a book titled "Confronting Jezebel: Discerning and Defeating the Spirit of Control," by Steve Sampson. This is a list of characteristics from the book that controlling people display. You can apply this list to any area of your life, not just the church. Everyone has character flaws (so don't get paranoid), and anyone may have one or two these characteristics, but if a number of these is present, then you are probably dealing with a controlling person. If anyone is trying to control you, it is not what God wants for you.

Characteristics Of A Controlling Person:

* Refuses to admit guilt or wrong - This person is never wrong, unless it's a temporary admittance of guilt to gain favor with someone. To accept responsibility would violate the core of insecurity and pride from which he operates.

* Takes credit for everything - This person will never take credit for his wrong actions or behavior, but he is quick to take credit for benefits for which he contributed no effort.

* Uses people to accomplish his agenda - This person lets others do his dirty work.

* Withholds information - This person wields power over you by knowing something you don't know in a situation. He will use this information as a powerful weapon of control.

* Talks in confusion - When confronting the controlling person, the subject may be changed five times in one minute. Confusion keeps him undiscovered and unexposed.

* Lies - This person lies convincingly. No one can lie better than he. The fact that he can look you in the eye and lie just shows how strong and adamant this rebellious spirit is.

* Ignores people - A classic ploy of a controller is to ignore you when you disagree with him. This puts the person out of the leader's grace and forces him to either "come around" to the leader's way of thinking or to be indefinitely ignored. One is not free to disagree with a controller.

* Never gives credit or shows gratitude - This person cannot bring himself to say thank you or to acknowledge that someone else did something right, even if it benefited him.

* Criticizes everyone - This person has to be the one who looks good, so he will quickly and sharply criticize anyone who makes a suggestion. Criticizing others elevates the controller in his own mind.

* One-upmanship - This person will always upstage another person. He feels threatened by anyone who dares to steal the limelight or who is a threat to his power and control.

* Sequesters information - This person loves to be in control of information. He will push to be the "first to know." Where he gets all his information is beyond comprehension, but he can dictate to you data and details about people's lives and actions in mass quantities.

* Uses information - This person uses information as a leverage for power and then shares tidbits with you, often things told him in confidence. This gives him a sense of power, even to the point of trying to impress people by "knowing things" that others do not.

* Spiritualizes everything - When this person is confronted, he commonly spiritualizes the situation, explaining it off on God. This prevents him to owning up to responsibility required of him. The implication is always, "You've got a problem; I don't."

* Is insubordinate - This person will take credit for someone else's idea. His main desire is for power and control. There is no conscience when an opportunity for recognition presents itself.

* Is pushy and domineering - This person pressures you to do things, seemingly ripping from you your right to choose or make a decision for yourself. He makes others feel as though they don't have enough sense to think for themselves.

* Uses the element of surprise - This person's main thrust is to be in control, and a large part of control is catching you off guard.

* Sows seeds of discord - This person will continually belittle another person in the most subtle way. The strategy is to "gain" control by minimizing the value of another person. It is common for him to tell half-truths to implicate another person in your eyes. By sowing these seeds, he hopes to eventually reap a harvest of destruction, improving his position of power.

* Commands attention - This person loves to be the center of attention and doesn't like to see others recognized. When someone else is recognized, he will quickly undermine the person's accomplishments verbally.

* Is vengeful - This person is never wrong. It you contradict or confront him, get ready to become his worst enemy. As long as you are in agreement with him, all is fine. But if you confront him, look out. You are the target of his fiercest venom. He will stop at nothing to destroy your reputation.

* Attempts to make you look like you're the Jezebel - This person is difficult to pin down. If he is near to being confronted, he will skillfully twist the entire situation, trying to make the innocent person look like the one who is attempting to control. He will do anything to look like the one who is right.

* Insinuates disapproval - This person will often imply disapproval to those under his control. The controlled person feels no freedom to express an opinion, for fear of disapproval.

* Knows it all - This person is blatant regarding his knowledge of everything. He is quick to express is opinion in any area, and he leaves little room for anyone to point out the other side of an issue. He has made idols of his opinions.

* Is ambitious - This person has strong desire, but all for self. "I want what I want when I want it," describes his worship of self-will. He will never use the words, "We have a vision," but rather, "My vision is this."

* Gift giving - This person uses gift giving as a form a manipulation. By doing this it makes people feel obligated to him.

* Is independent - No one has input into this person's life. He fraternizes with no one unless it is to get you to "cooperate" with his agenda.

* Is religious - This person dwells in the church, but doesn't like authority unless he is in the position of authority.

* Hides - This person may seem normal for a period, exhibiting none of the classic traits. Then suddenly without warning a situation will arise and once again this person will take control and wreak havoc over lives.

* Uses Fear - This person uses fear to wield authority, by saying things like, "If you leave, you will be without a spiritual covering."

I have seen all of these characteristics and experienced many of them first hand. I can tell you by personal experience that staying in a controlling situation will only bring hurt and disappointment to you and your children. Someone very dear to me learned this hard lesson just this week. The only way to truly live a free live in God is to get away from the control and learn all you can so that you will never find yourself there again.

*The post, Characteristics Of A Controlling Person, also has a detailed list of common characteristics.


Anonymous said...

It is hard to believe that people like this are running churches all over the country. When did we come to the point that we placed ourselves under church dictators who were held to no standard of accountability and answered to no one. What a red flag that should have been... it is unmistakabley evident that someone who refuses to live a life for others to see has MUCH to hide, and if it has to be hidden then it is evil! God help us all who have wasted many years in such a place. Help us to not look back and to press on to a goal of doing something true and real for the kingdom of God, and God help those who are sill held captive by that demonic spirit of control. I believe that these are the false teachers that we are warned about in the new testament. If they didn't have a measure of truth they would not have been able to ensnare us to begin with. It is time for all the false teachers to be exposed for what they really are. They have treated the body of Christ in attrocious ways - those who are supposed to be their brothers and sisters. The time has come for a stop to be put to these controlling people.

Anonymous said...

This post is quite eye-opening! I have been away from a controlling pastor for 11 months now and I still "see" more every day...I remember situations and recognize the methods he used to control me and my family. Reading those characteristics (every one of them described my former pastor) made me realize how VERY far I've come away from that control. I am thankful to also be serving along-side my pastor, who is humble and the total opposite of what was described in your post! It makes me thankful that I am rescued out of that situation by the grace of God. And it makes me pray for those who are still there more than ever!

S. said...

After being out of a church with a controlling pastor, I've somewhat adjusted to the fact that God will bring justice to those in His service who have erred and caused harm - spiritually, emotionally, even financially and possibly physically - to His people. I would be lying if I said I'd not wished I could help the justice take place myself. Where there is no accountability, there is great potential for harm...I've seen this played out. Somehow, I had been nieve and thought people could not actually get away with things I've witnessed (and am still witnessing).

I heard something recently that disturbed me yet again...another of God's servants was done wrong by a person in authority over them who should have been their encourager, mentor, example, overseer. Do some men have no fear of God? How can they mistreat others like they do?

If I watch a news broadcast and am told of a crime, I want justice to be carried out. I am sorry to say that I have seen wrongs committed against God's people by "God's people". I've witnessed men hurt and control others. I will continue to look to God to see that they are exposed and that they do no more harm to others. They need to repent and turn from their 'wicked ways'.

Brothers and sisters, if your child, spouse, or other loved one was mistreated by a babysitter, teacher, coach, neighbor, friend, physician, or employer you would not like it! You would encourage them to stand up and not allow themselves to be mistreated, or you would get involved yourself. Because a person claims to be a pastor or has spoken good things into your life, does not mean (unfortunately) they are incapable of error or doing you or your loved ones harm.

I am in disbelief at some who are standing beside men who have mistreated fellow Christians, spoken words with no scripture to back them, who are accountable to no one...who are described to a tee in the words you quoted from the book you have read. It is yet with hope that I look for their eyes to be opened that they may indeed be "set free".

GF said...

I have to think that it is the message that empowers the messenger to control. Paul was warning the Galatians to be careful when someone preached a message that required them to do something to acquire God's goodness. Paul warned them not to accept any message other than the one of grace that he taught.
The controlling preachers use a message that tells us that we must do what they say to get to God. It is very interesting that we seem to find these controlling leaders filling the pulpits in churches that preach a similar message.

I will be careful to listen to the message that is coming from the pulpit in the future. If it starts to sound like the one I listened to for the past 20 years then I will have to believe that the control will soon follow.

It is so sad that so many have been hurt by this situation and others like it.

Anonymous said...

I am in awe as I read these characteristics you listed. I can honestly say I saw all of those in a former situation I was in. I hope that people who are still in this type of control will soon see that they are being used and abused and make the choice to leave.

Anonymous said...

This list describes a person in my life I'm dealing with and I want to thank you for posting this and helping me see some things!