Would Others Say You’re a Control Girl?

If you haven’t done so yet, I invite you to Take the Control Girl Quiz! Over twelve Mondays (sorry I missed last week–it was a very busy ministry week for me), I’ll be unpacking one of the quiz’s twelve questions. Also, on Thursdays, I’ll be telling your stories in a “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” series.

Question #4:

Do friends or family members send subtle hints? Do others give tactful clues that they’d like you to back off? Do they ever roll their eyes and say, “I got it, the first six times, Mom!” or “I can handle it,”? If we cornered the people who love you most, would they privately admit that you are pushy or overbearing?

Some years ago, we pulled into the driveway of the condo that we were renting for a vacation, but before we got out, my husband said he wanted a word with me. He told the kids to stay in the van, and walked with me around the corner, where he said, “Shannon, you’ve got to stop. You are going to ruin this whole vacation!”

I was furious. Ruin it? I was the only reason we were going to have a vacation at all! I had spent the entire morning, trying to get us stocked, loaded, and headed in the right direction. But my husband saw it differently. He said, “You’re completely on edge! You’re barking orders and snapping at the kids and obsessed over the stupidest things. You’re ruining it!”

It was true that I had been completely stressed out. But it all had to be done! I was getting all of the food packed so that we didn’t have to waste half the afternoon looking for a grocery store because we forgot the peanut butter. It wasn’t my fault that someone had eaten the food I was planning to bring! And I was checking everyone’s feet for shoes and everyone’s suitcases for swimsuits, because I didn’t want anyone to miss out on hiking or swimming. It wasn’t my fault that someone had lost their other tennis shoe! And I was obsessed about printing off the details for getting the key (this was before we had smartphones) because I wanted us to be able to get in when we arrived. It wasn’t my fault that the printer was broken!!

My husband was acusing me of ruining our vacation? Maybe if he had helped a little more, I could have had a vacation, TOO!!

I’m sure there was steam coming out of my ears as I told him exactly how I felt about all of this. But he just calmly stood there and said, “Seriously. You need to stop. Stop. It.”

“What am I doing wrong?” I asked angrily. “What crime have I committed?”

He said, “Shannon, you are very intimidating when you get like this. We all feel the stress. No one wants to tell you, but I have to! You’re ruining it. You are destroying our family and you’re going to live to regret it.”

His words were shocking, in one sense. I was intimidating? I was creating stress? I was destroying our family?

I was the one trying to make this vacation–and this family–turn out right! 

But though I wouldn’t admit it at first, I knew that he was telling the truth. When we got inside the condo, I went into the bathroom, and talked into the mirror with the same expression I had just used when I demanded that the kids pick up the candy wrappers in the van. It was hideous. What an evil-looking expression. No wonder my family was stressed out.

And how ridiculous to get this angry over some wrappers, some peanut butter, a printer, and a missing shoe.

Finding Out I’m a Control Girl

For me, learning that I was a Control Girl was a gradual process. It took me a long time to look my problem in the eye and see it for what it is. But now I see it much more clearly. Trying to grasp at control never brings peace; only turmoil and conflict. The truth is, I can’t control everything. And when I try, I get really ugly.

Thankfully, God gave me a husband who has been willing to say, “No one wants to tell you, but I have to!” He has repeatedly told me over the years to stop it, cut it out, quit ruining things. Interestingly, I don’t remember him ever using the word “control”. Yet control was at the root of all of our strife.

Do you have strife in your relationships? Is there tension? Do other people send you subtle hints? Do they back away or shake their heads? Is there anyone who finds you exasperating?

If so, I have an assignment for you.

Your Assignment

I know this is the last thing you want to do, but take some time to contemplate the critical things that people in your life–especially the people who know and love you most–have said about you. Consider their complaints; their frustrations. Now, (maybe for the first time) acknowledge that they might be right. Give their criticisms your full attention. For the moment, suspend your arguments, defenses, and rebuttals and listen carefully to their side of the argument. Maybe you’ll even want write down their main messages to you.

I know that they haven’t gotten everything right. People rarely do. But perhaps there is something you need to see about yourself, which you have been blind to.

Next, take these criticisms and complaints and compare them to these words from the Bible. Look for any parallels between what your criticizer has said and what God says:

“Love is patient and kind;

love does not envy or boast;

it is not arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way;

it is not irritable or resentful;

it does not rejoice at wrong-doing but rejoices with the truth.

Love bears all thing, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.” (I Cor. 13:4-8)

Did you find any parallels? For me, it’s the same, every time. If I consider my husband’s (or someone else’s) frustration with me, almost without exception, God validates their complaint.

 

Confessing the Sin of Control

So what then? What can we do?

In a word: Repent! Oh, the sweet relief of agreeing with God and other people about my sin. This is the pathway to change! There is no other way. Unless I own my sin, I will not be free of it. “Confess your sins one to another that you may healed,” says James 5:16.

Confessing my sin of craving control over other people and outcomes, or admitting that I was selfishly insisting on my own way is counterintuitive, especially to a Control Girl. To say that I’ve been wrong gives someone else control. They can then say, “Aha! I’m right! You’re wrong! It is just as I’ve said!” Yes, there is always the chance the other person might do that. But sometimes they don’t.

I’ve found that when I confess my sin softly and ask for forgiveness, often the other person responds in softness also. This sort of interchange can be life-giving to the relationship. I can’t be promised this outcome, of course. But here’s the good news. If, after I confess my sin of control, the other person mocks me or piles on more judgement, I have even more opportunity to surrender control to God! It’s not easy, but it’s life-changing.

Surrender over time is what turns us from Control Girls to Jesus Girls. And I know of no better way to begin the surrender process than with confession. Confession and surrender are interwtined. You can’t have one without the other.

What do you think? Are you willing to try? Will you open yourself up and listen to others’ complaints about you? They might not come right out and say that you are pushy, overbearing, or controlling, but I’m sure they’ve found a way to file their complaints. Will you consider these criticisms from God’s perspective? Will you admit when you’ve been wrong? If so, you won’t be a Control Girl for long. You’ll be on the path to Jesus Girl.

Are You a Control Girl?

 

Take the Quiz to find out!

  1. Do you struggle with Anger?
  2. Do you struggle with Anxiety?
  3. Do Other Control Girls Irritate You?

Control Girl to Jesus Girl series:

Come learn from other women who are on the path from Control Girl to Jesus Girl. Learn from their mistakes and take hope from the future they are embarking on:

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Control Girl to Jesus Girl: Michelle’s Cancelled Adoption Story

During this twelve week series, I’m sharing stories of women who are on the path from Control Girl to Jesus Girl. Like me, these women would not say that they’ve arrived. They can’t claim to be perfectly Christ-like. But they are heading in a new direction.

Michelle’s dreams of growing her family were crushed when her husband decided that it would not be wise to move forward in an adoption process. Michelle tells her story of surrender.

Instead of bringing it up to her husband, Michelle learnted to lift it up to God. From nagging wife to praying wife, Read more

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(Control Girl Quiz) Do other Control Girls irritate you?

If you haven’t done so yet, I invite you to Take the Control Girl Quiz! Over twelve Mondays, I’ll be unpacking one of the quiz’s twelve questions. Also, on Thursdays, I’ll be telling your stories in a “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” series.

Quiz Question 3:

Are you irritated by other controlling people? Is there a controlling person in your life who deeply frustrates you? Are you more bothered by this person than others? Do you react in a passive aggressive manner when a controlling person gives you no choice or violates your “turf”?

When I speak on Control Girl, the most common question I’m asked is, “But what about that other controlling woman in my life? What should I do about her?”  Read more

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(Control Girl to Jesus Girl) Julie’s Mother-in-Law

During this twelve week series, I’m sharing stories of women who are on the path from Control Girl to Jesus Girl. Like me, these women would not say that they’ve arrived. They can’t claim to be perfectly Christ-like. But they are heading in a new direction.

Julie’s Story:

My husband has always talked about how much he’s like his mom. They’re both analytical and good with money. They both love being active outdoors. And they are both talented musicians. But I’ve noticed one way that they are completely different. My husband is flexible and easy going. And his mom is a Control Girl.

Early on, it didn’t bother me much when she was insistent and demanding about having her way. But then I got pregnant, and my mother-in-law’s desire to control everything only intensified. Read more

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(Control Girl Quiz) Do you struggle with anxiety?

If you haven’t yet taking the “Control Girl Quiz“, I invite you to start there. Over twelve Mondays, I’ll be unpacking one of the quiz’s twelve questions. Also, on Thursdays, I’ll be telling your stories in a “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” series. (Check out Kim’s powerful story here.) If you’re interested in sharing your story, contact me at shannon@shannonpopkin.com.

Quiz Question 2:

Do you struggle with worry or anxiety? Are you gripped with fear over the future? Do you fret about your own safety or the safety of those you love? Do you obsess over small concerns because you’re worried about where they will lead? Do you tend to project into the future, consider all of the “what if’s”, and overreact?

Like anger, anxiety is often an indication that we’re trying to control something which isn’t ours to control. 

We obsess over past mistakes, and overthink the implications of our perceived shortcomings. We worry about little things that aren’t “right”, fretting about where it all might lead. Everything seems like a “slippery slope” with a straight shoot into disaster.  And we dread the future and what sort of disasterous, terrifying things might–or probably will–happen.

Past, Present, Future

If we let it, anxiety can paint a cloud of doom over the past, the present, and the future.

Here’s an example. Once, in second grade, my son had some friends over after school. Read more

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Control Girl to Jesus Girl: Kim

During this twelve week series, I’m sharing stories of women who are on the path from Control Girl to Jesus Girl. Like me, these women would not say that they’ve arrived. They can’t claim to be perfectly Christ-like. But they are heading in a new direction.

I was blessed to have Kim share at our Kregel Parable Release Party. Here’s what she said: 

“About twelve years ago, my husband and I were going through a divorce and we separated for two years. After a lot of ugliness and trying to control each other, Read more

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Control Girl Quiz: Do you Struggle with Anger?

If you haven’t yet taking the “Control Girl Quiz“, I invite you to start there. Each Monday, over twelve weeks, I’ll be unpacking one of the quiz’s twelve questions. Also, on Thursdays, I’ll be telling your stories in a “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” series. (Check out Elizabeth’s powerful story here.) If you’re interested in sharing your story, contact me at shannon@shannonpopkin.com.

Today, we’re looking at quiz question 1:

Do you struggle with anger? Do you erupt when something doesn’t go your way? Do you lose your cool over small, insignificant interruptions—either disruptions to your afternoon commute or your life trajectory? Do you inwardly (or outwardly) seethe at people who make your life difficult or who disagree with you—even over small things?

Anger is often an indication that we’re trying to control something which isn’t ours to control. We want our plans to unfold without a hitch. We don’t want anything to disrupt our plans–even small, insignificant plans.

Clutching Tightly

Once when my daughter Lindsay was about eighteen months old, my husband and I watched her become extremely frustrated. Read more

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Control Girl to Jesus Girl: Elizabeth

During this twelve week series, I’m sharing stories of women who are on the path from Control Girl to Jesus Girl. Like me, these women would not say that they’ve arrived. They can’t claim to be perfectly Christ-like. But they are heading in a new direction.

Not all of the stories in this series will be shared by video, but I was blessed to have Elizabeth share at the Kregel Parable Release Party. Though her emotions were raw, and she claims that speaking is not “her thing” (I disagree), she has given me permission to share this publicly.

Here’s Elizabeth’s story about how perfectionism ruined her peace and stole her joy: 

“Control only temporarily soothed my anxiety. I strived to be this perfect juggler-always keeping every ball in the air. When one would drop–which it always did– Read more

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Control Girl Quiz

Are you a Control Girl?

First of all, you should be commended on your willingness to engage the question. Many women  avoid it.

For years, I saw myself as having the best of intentions. I took matters into my own hands because I cared so much! I was invested! The last word I would have chosen to describe myself was “controlling”. Besides, nobody else told me outright that I was controlling–not even my husband. Yet, there were signs….

  1. Do you struggle with anger? Do you erupt when something doesn’t go your way? Do you lose your cool over small, insignificant interruptions—either disruptions to your afternoon commute or your life trajectory? Do you inwardly (or outwardly) seethe at people who make your life difficult or who disagree with you—even over small things?
  2. Do you struggle with worry or anxiety? Are you gripped with fear over the future? Do you fret about your own safety or the safety of those you love? Do you obsess over small concerns because you’re worried about where they will lead? Do you tend to project into the future, consider all of the “what if’s”, and overreact?
  3. Are you irritated by other controlling people? Is there a controlling person in your life who deeply frustrates you? Are you more bothered by this person than others? Do you react in a passive aggressive manner when a controlling person gives you no choice or violates your “turf”?
  4. Do friends or family members send subtle hints? Do others give tactful clues that they’d like you to back off?  Do they ever roll their eyes and say, “I got it, the first six times, Mom!” or “I can handle it,”? If we cornered the people who love you most, would they privately admit that you are pushy or overbearing?
  5. Do they call you the “Food Nazi”? Or the “Seatbelt Nazi”? Or the “(Fill-in-the-blank) Nazi?” Do other people resist your efforts to get them to do what is in their best interest? Are there people at work, home, or in your community who might say that you micromanage, overstep, or insist on your way?
  6. Does your husband feel disrespected by you? Does he get angry because you interrupt? Does he get frustrated when you give suggestions or tell him how to do it? Does he often become sullen, explosive, or withdrawn? Has he opted out of parenting because you’ve corrected him so much? Has he started spending more time out than in?
  7. Do your kids feel like you’re nagging them? Do your young children have closed hearts toward you? Do your grown children withhold information or try to avoid your questions? Do your kids bristle when you come in the room?
  8. Are you undisciplined? Do you regularly eat too much, spend too much, stay up too late, or spend too much time on social media? Are you constantly late? Do you struggle to live within any sort of boundary lines or limits?
  9. Are you rigidly perfectionistic? Do you obsess over every calorie, every cent, or every minute spent? Are you a perfectionist with your home, your car, your appearance, or your work? Do you feel peace, only when you have everything under control? Do others think of you as rigid and inflexible?
  10. Do you keep hidden agendas? Do you tend to conceal information or only tell part of the story, to give yourself leverage? Do you use information to manipulate people? Do you use relational equity to your advantage?
  11. Do you have a lifestyle of “image control”? Do guard yourself against hurt by trying to control of what people think of you? Do you throw yourself into your work, ministry, or appearance to ward off feelings of worthlessness? Do you put up walls in relationships or limit yourself to superficiality?
  12. Does God seem far away? Do you picture God as distant or uncaring? Are you suspicious of His motives? Do you think of Him as too indifferent, apathetic, or disinterested to concern Himself with the things that matter to you?
Are you a Control Girl? Take the Quiz to find out! #ControlGirl Click To Tweet

12 Week Series

So, how’d you do? Did you answer yes to some? Most? Do you think you might be a Control Girl?

Over the next twelve Mondays I will publish a post unpacking each of these twelve questions. I hope you’ll check back weekly. Also, over the next twelve Thursdays, I’ll be telling your stories in a “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” series. If you’re interested in having your story told (we can keep it anonymous), use the contact form to get in touch with me.

If, as you engage these series, you conclude that you are indeed a Control Girl, don’t despair. I have good news for you:

No woman has to be a Control Girl.

Yes, women tend to have a bent toward wanting control, but God offers us another option. Another path. He invites us to a life of surrender. To say, as Jesus did, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

Control Girls of the Bible

My new book, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control From Seven Women in the Bible, is a study of seven Control Girls of the Bible who struggled with control in the same way we do—they pushed for their own agendas, tried to make everything turn out according to their plans, and made everybody miserable in the process.

As we watch God interacting with these Control Girls of the Bible, we gain perspective on our own control struggles. Just like back then, God is in control and we aren’t. He invites us to live accordingly.

Thanks for taking the quiz and entering to win! Let’s go from Control Girl to Jesus Girl, shall we?

 

 

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Control

Control.

The desire for it wells up from somewhere very deep inside of me. I crave it. I feel compelled to lunge for it; to do whatever it takes to have it. I feel an urgency to take control, wondering what might happen if I don’t!

And so I go for it. I leap for it. I run for it. I grasp it as tightly as I can and clutch it with all my might.

Then without comment, control slips through my fingers like a mirage. It flutters like a leaf, blown upward into heaven.

I see now that it was all a tease. I never did have a grasp on that blasted control.

This makes me angry and frustrated. I shout at it to get right back here, and jab my finger at the ground in front of me. Then I whimper like a child because I need it so badly. But control is not mine to be had. It doesn’t belong in my hands. It belongs in God’s.

I look up to search His face, wondering why He has taken the control I so deeply long for. Is He taunting me? Is He Indifferent and aloof? Does he even see me all the way down here, beneath his throne?

I wave my hands frantically, to let him know that I need Him to send it back down. I’m ready to hold on more tightly, now. I won’t let go this time.

There’s movement. He sees me! He’s stooping low. For a moment, I’m terrified, and then I see kindness in His eyes. He whispers something into my soul and I lean forward to hear it. You were not designed to carry the burden of control. Won’t you let me carry it for you?

And then He shows me His hands. His massive, wise, holy hands. They are good, God hands.

And at first glance I didn’t notice, but now I do! He’s holding something, there. Are they threads? They’re translucent yet as strong as steel.

I look closer and see a trillion plotlines being woven together in such complexity and beauty, such that I’ve never laid eyes on. His strong fingers are twisting and tying and looping the details together—details of people who are known and loved by Him—in intricate patterns so that each thread moves the story along toward a conclusion that fills my heart with such joy I can hardly breathe.

I can’t see the ending; I can’t see the full pattern. But I just know that it is good.

“It is very good,” I hear Him say.

But when I turn my eyes back to His face, He is gone. Hidden from sight. Just like that.

It was only a glimpse, but it was enough.

I am settled now, at peace with what I can’t see and what I don’t know. I no longer feel the angst in my soul, pressing me to take and keep and have control.

He’s in control, so I don’t have to be.

This was first published on KateMotaung.com as a “Five Minute Friday” post–a challenge for writers to share their five-minutes-only writing. Come read what 98+ other bloggers have said about “Control”–or better yet, join them!  Five Minute Friday: Control

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