Controlling Others As Counterfeit Love

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.”


Counterfeit Love

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.

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Dealing with the Tactics of Emotional Abuse

These guidelines were distilled from a number of sources. The tactics of the manipulator are often found in the Bible in the behavior of characters such as Laban, Tobiah, Sanballat, Saul and others who certainly weren’t the ones wearing the ‘white hats.’

1. Note the tactics that the manipulator is using:


  • Denial (whitewashing aggressive actions)

  • Selective inattention (playing dumb or acting oblivious)

  • Rationalization (excuses for inappropriate or harmful behavior)

  • Diversion (changing the subject, dodging the issue, bringing up long past issues)

  • Lying (withholding information, distorting the truth, exaggeration)

  • Covert intimidation (veiled threats to intimidate or silence)

  • Guilt tripping (trying to make the other person feel guilty, playing on that person’s conscience)

  • Shaming (subtle sarcasm and putdowns to induce fear, self doubt in others)

  • Playing the victim role (portraying oneself as the innocent victim of circumstance)

  • Vilifying the victim (putting the victim on the defensive by pretending to be responding to or defending against the aggression of the victim)

  • Playing the servant role (cloaking self serving agenda in the guise of service to a more noble cause)

  • Seduction (charming, praising, flattering or overly supporting others to elicit trust and loyalty)

  • Blameshifting and scapegoating

  • Blindsiding

  • Traps and something for nothing pseudo-exchanges

  • Exaggerations and grandiose self promoting stories

  • Minimization of the pain and hurt to others from his or her behavior


2. Redefine the terms of engagement.


  • Describe what you think that the aggressor wants in this situation and why it may be inappropriate.

  • Describe your own needs and wants in this situation.

  • Describe what personal limits are acceptable to you: what behavior to tolerate and when to take action.

  • List your direct requests (“I want you to . . . “, and “I don’t want you to . . . anymore”), and your requests for direct responses to these requests.

  • List any possible responses (stonewalling or outright refusal, yelling, etc) and counterattacks and your own responses that the aggressor might and could do to avoid perception of losing.

  • List your personal support system.

  • Describe an appropriate win/win solution.


3. Prepare for confrontation:


  • Note any previous body language which signals a deceitful, disdainful and aggressive intent: icy smile, intimidating gestures, invasion of personal space, unnecessarily strident or intense voice demonstrating repressed hostility and/or fear. Plan on responses to these if you understand what they signal.

  • Make the inappropriate behavior the issue.

  • Keep the weight of responsibility on the aggressor for behavioral change.

  • Keep the aggressor aware that aggressive tactics will not work.

  • Avoid threats, sarcasm, hostility and putdowns.

  • Use assertive “I” statements to state what you want and need.

  • Stay with the present issue and avoid past issues.

  • Make appropriate, reliable, verifiable and enforceable agreements (win-win if possible).

Church Detox Installment 4: Deal Forthrightly with the Hidden Abuse in the Modern Church

Over the years, I’ve become convinced that there is hidden violence and abuse among the men and women who attend our churches. Often we begin to hear about what takes place in counselling rooms, divorce proceedings, and sometimes even murder investigations. After September 11, as I was reading my Bible, what God actually had to say about violence and abuse seemed to leap out at me more. I was also surprised at how little I had heard about the sinfulness of verbal, emotional and physical abuse in the preaching and teaching ministry of the church over the many years I’ve been a part of the church. I also became ashamed of how many sermons I myself had preached that had not mentioned these kinds of sins. Here are the thoughts that came to me on what seem to be the scriptural responsibilities of the church to deal with this often hidden behavior.

  • Set forth the scriptural teaching about violence and abuse in the preaching and teaching ministry of the church, and call for clear repentance. The most powerful prevention of violence and abuse among professing Christians is for hearts to be cleansed of violent and abusive tendencies through the power of Christ.

  • Make it clear that abuse is not restricted to physical violence but also includes verbal and emotional abuse (ridicule and scorn), the denigration aimed to control or crush the intended victim totally.

  • Make the church a safe place for repentant abusers, and an uncomfortable place for the stubbornly unrepentant.

  • Make clear the resources of the church which are available to help repentant abusers.

  • Deal with bullying of others in the programs for children and youth; abusive adults often start out as bullying children and adolescents.

  • Make the danger signs of a potentially or actually abusive person clear, and incorporate them in youth, college and singles teaching and premarital counselling. The church can prevent many potentially or actually abusive relationships by making it clear what constitutes this kind of person and relationship in the earliest stages.

  • Make it clear that a workplace or other family situation can be an abusive situation as well as a marital or dating relationship.

  • Avoid anything that blames the victims or targets of abuse for their situation. Not all are always 100% innocent, but it is true that many, if not most, do absolutely nothing to bring the abuse upon themselves. Rather, they most often are dealing with an angry, hateful and violent person.

  • Avoid giving the expectation that it is the will of God for a person to remain in an abusive situation. God hates violence as well as divorce.

  • Develop a church policy with the board of elders for church discipline of unrepentant abusers and for the restoration of repentant abusers.

  • Develop a denominational policy for church discipline of unrepentant abusers and for the restoration of repentant abusers among pastors and other church leaders. Titus 1:7 makes it clear that violence, quick temper and domineering, aggressive ways of dealing with others are a disqualification for a position which involves elder authority.

Here are the steps that I would set forth for someone as the way to become a Former Bully and Abuser.

  • Understand that you will stand before God and answer for every word and action in your life.
  • Understand that no religious activity, claims of good intentions or temporary shows of nice and charming behavior will ever make up for your destructive behavior or stubborn, violent and unrepentant heart.

  • Understand that the profession of Jesus Christ as Savior carries with it the obligation to follow Christ as Lord in thought, intention and deed.

  • Abandon any obsessions that you can control yourself and others by your own cleverness, cunning, deceit, strength or persistence or any permissions you have given yourself or rights you have claimed for yourself to control others by deceit and violence.

  • Abandon your longstanding grudges, wicked schemes and personal vendettas against those who have avoided, resisted or exposed your attempts at control and personal sabotage, and release others from your unreasonable expectations.

  • Abandon verbal abuse and manipulation, emotional abuse and manipulation, and physical violence as any way to achieve your ambitions and desires.

  • Take personal responsibility for the pain and destruction you have caused to others through your wicked schemes, verbal abuse and manipulation, emotional abuse and manipulation, and physical violence.

  • Demonstrate truthfulness and trustworthiness rather than demanding trust and making false claims of truthfulness and good intentions.

  • Look at yourself with a new and scriptural view of yourself as a sinner who has fallen short of the glory of God with no special privileges before God or man.

  • Take up a new way of Christlike humility and servanthood, and place no obstacles in the way of anyone else seeking to follow Christ.

  • Take up a new way of peacemaking rather than instigation.

  • Take up legitimate scriptural goals and ambitions.

  • Seek to fulfill your legitimate scriptural goals and ambitions through personal skill, diligence and effort with prayerful reliance on God.

“He who covers his sins shall not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them shall find forgiveness” (Proverbs 29:13).

All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.