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There are people I come into contact with professionally who are controllers.  They share many of the same characteristics, which I’ll list below:

  • These are people who require a great deal of personal control over their lives.  They are most comfortable when they know exactly what is going to happen and when.
  • They are not spontaneous, easygoing people.  Surprises are met with suspicion and hostility instead of with joy and delight. 
  • If an event does not happen the way they planned or envisions, they become upset and disappointed.
  • If they are not in charge of an event, they are extremely uncomfortable.  They either will attempt to assert control over some aspect of the event or withdraw and become sullen.
  • The attempt to control the behavior of others by their own negative behavior, using hostility, sarcasm, anger, guilt, and shame to try to get their way.
  • They tend to believe their perspective is the only correct one and are reluctant to accept different perspectives from others.
  • They have been hurt in the past by the actions or attitudes of others and believe they can avoid pain in the future only by having firm control.
  • They are extremely uncomfortable being wrong and rarely admit it, even when it is obvious.
  • They spend a great deal of time concentrating on the problems, issues, and lives of other people, generally with a superior attitude.
  • They do not confess their faults to others but expend effort to either cover them up or pretend they don’t exist.
  • If confronted with a wrong, they will respond with excuses, reasons, and rationales, seeking to make the person who confronted them the one in the wrong for bringing it up in the first place.
  • They are self-righteous in personal and religious matters.

How much do you see yourself in these descriptions?  Be honest with yourself and admit even when you can see yourself partially reflected.  The more of a controller you are, the harder it will be for you to give up control over your own life to God.  Be aware that I’ve known very many religious people who are also controllers.  They have all the outward appearances of piety, but instead of allowing God to control their lives, they retain control by personally interpreting what God wants — for themselves and others.

Acknowledge the top three to five characteristics you see in yourself.  These are characteristics I want you to be especially aware of.  Ask God to reveal the depths of these characteristics in your life and expose the damage to you.  Often, He will put you in contact with someone else who has the very same characteristic.  This will allow you to begin to understand how your behavior and attitude affects other people.  So, don’t be surprised if some difficult people come into your life!  Thank God for them, and learn how deeply the need for personal control is affecting your life.

As you gain understanding, intentionally unclench your fists and let the control go.  Start with small, everyday things, working up to bigger challenges.  In all of these things, seek out professional counsel when appropriate to help you fine-tune your personality.  There’s no shame in wanting to become a better person, a more accepting child of God. 

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 38 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.