Even if Babylon (witchcraft) reaches the sky and fortifies her lofty stronghold, I will send destroyers against her, declares the LORD. Jeremiah 15:53
One particular stronghold surfaces in almost everyone to whom we minister. In fact, we had to deal with this stronghold in our own lives (By now, we trust that you are no longer surprised by the number of different hurts and wounds we had.) We call it the “Control-Rebellion-Rejection Stronghold.” These three “strongholds in one” form a “super” Stronghold. From an academic point of view, this dynamic pattern is fascinating. In “real” life, however, this very destructive stronghold can devastate relationships, individuals, and families.
We suspect that all dysfunctional families exhibit this pattern. Its main consequence creates a feeling of being trapped within the family. All members within the family believe they cannot leave and live their own lives. The children usually respond either by staying in the family long after the normal time for doing so, or by breaking away (rebelling) at their first chance. it is not a healthy pattern.
Girls get married just to escape the family. Such marriages, however, usually end in divorce. Why? Because the same SOFCs are perpetuated in their new family and the girl feels just as trapped, or mor so, as in her original family. Boys, on the other hand, have fights with their dads and run away from home. They start their own families and become massive Controllers, trying to force peace where there is no peace.
This stronghold has two basic cycles. As one person Controls another, the second person reacts with Rebellion and also with feelings of Rejection. The second person, out of both the Rebellion and Rejection, also becomes a Controller, as they resist the Control of the first person The cycles are also active in all their other relationships. As a result, two cycles operate within the same person. We frequently see these cycles continuing down through the generations as the parent’s excessive Control [Eph 6:4] provokes Rebellion and Rejection in their children, and then the children become Controlling parents with their children.
A. Legitimate Control
Before we start into the details of this chapter, we need to make it clear that not all Control is “bad.” There is “legitimate Control.” When someone has received—or has been delegated—legitimate responsibility and authority over something or someone, there is a basis for legitimate Control. For example, the boss at the work place has legitimate responsibility and authority. He is there fore expected to exert, within the boundaries of the job, legitimate Control over his employees. Parents have a God-ordained responsibility and authority with their children. therefore, they are expected to use legitimate Control to raise their children in a way that will prepare them to live godly lives [Prov 22:6]. Of course, as the children grow up, the time comes when a gradual releasing of the legitimate Control is necessary. As that happens, the children learn to be responsible and exercise legitimate authority and Control over their own lives and come into their rightful places as mature people responsible before God.
Jesus Christ legitimately received “all authority on heaven and earth,” from the One who had the authority to declare His victory in His triumph over Satan [Col 2:14]. Christ then gave this authority to us, the Church. Thus, the Church has legitimate responsibility, authority, and Control over the forces of darkness and over the affairs of the earth—but not over the free will of individual people.
Legitimate Control does exist. Not all Control is bad. When, however, undelegated, unauthorized Control occurs, the Control-Rebellion-Rejection Stronghold is give “place,” along with its destructive consequences for everyone involved.
We want to look at why people Control, how people Control, they dynamics of Control, and the consequences of Control. We will see how Rebellion and Rejection complete these destructive cycles.
B. Why People Control
While there may seem to be many reasons why people Control, when we dig down to the bottom, only two roots causes exist.
1. People Control for Power
It may surprise you to learn that the most obvious reason for controlling—controlling for power, particularly power over other people—is actually somewhat rare. Perhaps Hitler and other dictators Control for this reason. In reality, however, we believe that only a small percentage of the world’s population enjoys controlling for power.
It is unlikely that we will find one of these Control-type people in the ministry room. First of all, they are unlikely to come to church. If they do come, they probably would not submit to anyone, much less ask for help from RTF ministers. We probably will not find these people among those to whom we minister.
One group of people may seem to be controlling for power: those who victimize others, such as perpetrators of sexual abuse. While an element of raw power is definitely involved, these people usually use Control to avoid pain and to express their anger from the abuse they have suffered.
2. People Control to Avoid Pain
We believe that the main reason that most people Control is to cover over their exciting pain and to avoid further hurt and pain at all cost. We estimate that 90 to 95 percent of the controlling people to whom we have ministered Control for this reason. These people will do almost anything to hide from pain, prevent potential pain, or divert pain. They will Control, strategize, manipulate, reason, argue, etc. Logical people will behave illogically. Weak people will become strong. Gracious people will become rude. They will do anything in order to get their way so that maybe they can cover over the existing pain and feel secure and protected. Since lasting security or protection is not available through Control, they always need to do more even though they know deep inside that they cannot do enough. As a result, they experience no rest, no peace, but only a constant, relentless drive that consumes them their entire life—unless they receive freedom from this insidious pattern.
What type of hurts lead to this controlling-type behavior in order to avoid further pain? Hurts such as being abandoned, suffering abuse of any kind, being controlled, and being devalued. Along with these painful experiences come all the hurts resulting from the Control itself, including the withholding of approval. Such devastating, major experiences usually result in much internal pain. This pain, in turn, frequently leads to a victim mentality, in which the victim becomes a Controller to avoid any set up for future pain.
The key underlying issue with people who control to avoid further hurt is mistrust of others. This usually also includes mistrusting God. Since they don’t trust anyone, they must do everything themselves, and they must Control everyone else to prevent additional hurt. Out of this deep need to Control comes many different manifestations of Control. Let’s look at a few of them.
It is not uncommon for people to put a lot of effort into “protecting” others. They say that they are protecting you, but they are really protecting themselves. These are the ones who “know what’s best for you.” How many of you have had mothers or fathers who knew what was best for you, and they controlled you excessively? Their hidden motive was to Control you so they would not experience further hurt or pain from what you might do if you were not controlled. Ungodly, illegitimate Control occurred when they imposed their will over your will in an excessive manner—when they went beyond legitimate authority, regardless of how noble the reason.
Examples of “protection Control” might be, “I’ll pick out the college for you to attend;” “I’ll help you find the best wife for you;” “I’ll decide what you should name your children.” Getting “A’s” on your report card was very important. Doing well in sports, music, or other extracurricular activities. Such attempts to control usually involves a large element of false responsibility and an even larger element of pride.
Filling the Vacuum
People Control for another reason: What we call “filling the vacuum.” Filling the vacuum occur when no one else is in charge. The underlying motivation is, “I have to control in order to avoid disaster.” This is so understandable since the one stepping into the vacuum fears he or she will otherwise be hurt.
This motive for Control most often occurs in a husband-wife situation. The couple usually has the “classic” complementary UGBs that were discussed in Chapter VIII, “Ungodly Beliefs.” For example, the husband might believe, “Wives are controlling.” The wife believes, “Husbands are passive.” Such thinking keeps each spouse trapped into this complementary, re-enforcing, Ungodly Belief cycle. The force of the wife’s Ungodly Beliefs plus the husband’s own beliefs and personality pressure him to succumb to passivity and to give up his God-given authority as head of the house. As a result, a vacuum is created. The wife, because she doesn’t expect her husband to function as leader and is suffering the consequences, “naturally” fills the vacuum. She takes over, usually a little at first but gradually more and more. It is almost impossible for the wife not to take control. Unfortunately, in the process she “enables” the husband to become more and more trapped in his passivity.
Since God did not ordain the wife to function in the headship position, her “filling the vacuum,” even to avoid the immediate disaster, will lead to a larger disaster in the long term. The vicious cycles of the Control-Rebellion-Rejection Stronghold is for one or the other of them to realize what is going on, to understand the destructive consequences, and decide to get free. It will take both of them desiring freedom in order for it to occur without destroying the marriage.
Preventing Chaos and Uncertainty
When we are surrounded by unpredictability, violence, yelling, chaos, and shame-producing experiences, we want to “take over” so we can bring order into the situation and have peace and quiet. In later life, we will Control to ensure that chaos doesn’t have an opportunity even to arise.
C. Effort Required to Control
People who control (and we all do to some degree) exert a lot of energy. They can become exhausted, physically, mentally, and spiritually. We like to joke with them that they are “controlling the universe.” Most of the time, however, they don’t laugh. After all, it takes an awful lot of energy to Control the universe! Making sure every person is in the right place at the right time and ensuring that nobody is going to cause conflict with anyone else can lead to exhaustion. Controllers are almost always tired.
A common situation occurs when a number of people are invited for dinner. The hostess carefully plans where each guest will sit in order to avoid any potential controversies or unpleasant encounters. Such intricate planning involves filling out the name tags and putting them in the right places: strategizing, thinking, worrying, fretting, and never-ending activity. “I can’t put Aunt Susie across from Uncle Bill because they have a five-year feud going, and … when I talk to cousin Nancy, I must make sure my husband isn’t around because he hates Nancy. I have to make everything perfect so nobody will have a reason to be mad at me!” Whew, it’s exhausting just to think about it.
We have all experienced situations that we thought required our intervention in order to maintain “the peace” or keep our reputation in tact. In the back of our minds, we thin, “Maybe I can avoid being embarrassed, or shamed, or yelled at, or this or that, if I Control one way or another.”
D. Enabling Others in Their Sin
The previous sections presented some of the major motives that people have for controlling. Some of these motives involve enabling. That is, in order to avoid pain, people enable somebody else to stay in his sin. Their might be the controlling wife helping her passive husband continue to be passive. If she takes over the checkbook to keep him from spending all the money, then she is enabling him to remain immature and not grow in that area. If no one confronts the alcoholic in the family, he or she may be enabling him to continue his irresponsible addition. God doesn’t want us to be enablers of sin, nor does He want the ones being “enabled” to stay in their sin. Godly counsel will likely be necessary to help the person learn how to become free of Control and also how to intervene so that the “enablee” can get free of his sin.