Some years ago I heard Barbara Cook share the following material. I copied much of it down on the spot, since I was then the pastor of a congregation where most had come from an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional family. Much of the following material is also contained in her book, Love and Its Counterfeits.
Other than a number of the sermons of Erwin Lutzer, I cannot remember ever hearing any pastor call trying to control another person and its attendant deception and emotional, verbal, physical and often spiritual abuse, as sin. Yet Christ is the actual Lord of any believer, and each believer is actually responsible to him completely and eternally (Romans 14:4-12, Ephesians 1:21-23). Pastor Lutzer additionally called it a sign of demonic influence, and I would agree. It’s a sign of someone listening to a deceiving voice telling that person, ‘ . . . you will be like God . . .’ (Genesis 3:5). The unbelievably low cunning and determination which a controlling person can manifest beyond all reason can definitely point to the malicious and deceptive instigation of spiritual wickedness behind the controller. I would challenge all pastors to point out these sins in their preaching in the future.
Obsessions of the Controller
Biblical, Christlike love is servanthood, not control: “. . . serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:14). It is seeking the highest good of another person according to the standards of the Word of God. Attempts to control others pollute love, sabotage their God given responsibility for their own lives, and may eventually destroy the relationship. Here are some of the self deceptions of the person who attempts to control others in their lives.
1. Self Deception: “I believe that a person who changes to my specifications will be a better person.”
Reality: This is a dangerous arrogance of personal authority and presumption of personal knowledge of what is best for another person. Only God can be the real judge of what is best for another person.
2. Self Deception: “I am responsible to make another adult do what he should do.”
Reality: Each adult has his own responsibility before God to follow his will, and will answer personally to God for how he has fulfilled that responsibility.
3. Self Deception: “God has given me special insight and capability to help this person make necessary changes in his or her life.”
Reality: This is mistaking the voice of obsession for the voice of the Holy Spirit, and is a rationalization of attempts to play the Hoy Spirit in another person’s life. The real agenda of the Holy Spirit is different than that of another human being, and he does not originate nor stand behind obsessions.
4. Self Deception: “I would be happier if this other person changed.”
Reality: Happiness is dependent upon your personal choice of the will of God.
5. Self Deception: “I meet my emotional needs by exerting power over others.”
Reality: God wants you to find satisfaction in a humble walk with himself.
6. Self Deception: “I am overprotective of those whom I love.”
Reality: God alone is sufficient to protect and defend his people.
Biblical Truths for Rescuers
1. “Results in another person’s life are not my responsibility.”
2. “My preconceived notions of what the end result of my helping may be far from God’s actual intentions for another person.”
3. “I cannot change another person, no matter how much I care and want to help.”
4. “No strings of control are to be attached to my gift of love.”
5. “I am not needed in the role of Messiah.”
6. “I must never underestimate my own human vulnerability.”
7. “I must never overestimate my ability to know what is best for another adult.”
8. “I am not superior. I am just a friend, a person who has chosen to love.
9.”Only eternity will reveal the fruit of love I have sown in other’s lives.”
10. “When I love another person, I offer it as a gift to Christ.”
1. You have given another person power over your emotions.
2. You have given away control of your identity to another person.
3. You have violated your moral standards and beliefs.
4. You have assisted another person in the continuance of a destructive behavior by allowing that person to escape the destructive consequences of that behavior.
5. You have been victimized, manipulated or used.
6. You have submitted to treatment that makes you feel worthless, treatment tht ignores your Godgiven human value and right to respect.
7. You have been refusing to take a serious look at reality.
8. You have repeatedly endangered your physical health and safety and endangered your life.
Guidelines for the Chronic Victim
1. Do something about your safety.
If you are suffering physical abuse or harassment, inform the authorities, and physically separate yourself from the situation.
2. If you are suffering physical abuse, insist that the abuser get help immediately.
Do not return to live with him until he has demonstrated radically changed character and actions through moral responsibility for his behavior. Accept no apologies or promises of change as sufficient without concrete steps to change and demonstrations of change.
3. Let others help you out of your situation.
Form a support system of concerned, trustworthy friends and relatives, especially among brothers and sisters in Christ.
4. Examine your attitudes about love and trust in regard to the scriptures.
5. Go through a life pattern inventory of how your situation has affected you.