Why Control-Craving Hearts Get Angry

Here’s one of my recent posts, featured last May on the True Woman blog–a ministry of Revive Our Hearts. 

One day when my kids were preschoolers, we walked into our family room and found that a bat was stuck between our sliding glass door and the screen door with its wings expanded. Its evil-looking face was right up against the glass and looked like it was hissing curses at us.

Immediately, I shrieked for my husband to get rid of the thing and whisked the kids to the other room.

Peace to Turmoil

The following day, Ken and I were sitting out on our deck, drinking lemonade and watching the kids play in the backyard. It was a beautiful, peaceful moment. But then I asked, “Hey, what did you do with that bat?”

He said he had just scooped it off the door with a shovel, then tossed it out into the yard.

“And then, what did you do?” I asked—hoping to hear that he beat the thing to death and buried it six feet under. But no. He had not done anything else with the bat.

Just then my toddler leaned over to pick something up from the yard to put in his mouth.

It was too much.

I ran screeching into the yard like a crazy person and swooped up little Cole, hollering for the other kids to follow me inside, right that instant.

As I scrubbed the kids’ fingers and toes with soap at the kitchen sink, the thoughts swarming my mind were not kind. What sort of man sends his own children out into a bat-infested yard?! I went from incredulous to furious.

The kids were all wailing—especially little Cole, whose mouth I was washing out with soap—as my husband wandered back inside the house. I flew at him in a rage, ordering him to get back outside and find the bat he had flung into our yard.

“Shannon, that’s ridiculous,” he said, rolling his eyes. “That bat is long gone.”

“Did you see it fly away? Did you? Did you?” I was leaning forward with my eyes bulging, my finger jabbing the air. I’m sure I looked quite lovely.

Knowing things would only escalate from here, my husband went out and began pacing back and forth across our yard. It’s one of those ugly “Control Girl” memories I wish I could forget.

Craving Control

No bat ever turned up in our yard. What did turn up, however—with ever increasing intensity—was my anger, disrespect, and obsessive perfectionism.

During those years that the kids were little, I didn’t think of myself as controlling—mostly because I had such good intentions! I wasn’t trying to frustrate or exasperate my husband, or anyone else. I was trying to keep everyone safe and make everything turn out “right”! But as I lunged for control, trying to create my own version of perfect, I only made everyone (myself included) miserable.

I could take any sunny, lemonade-drinking afternoon and turn it into frenzied chaos—with kids howling, me ranting, and my husband responding in exasperation. I was trying to create safety, security, and peace, but instead I was producing just the opposite.

As the kids got bigger, my problem with control only got worse. Instead of keeping our small backyard safe and trying to control what they put in their mouths, now I wanted to control their school, sports, and driving environments, and I had more serious things—like alcohol and drugs—that I wanted to keep out of their mouths.

I wasn’t outgrowing this control problem. It was getting worse.

Anger Issues

Though I wouldn’t have called myself a “Control Girl” back then, I knew I had anger issues. I had memorized James 1:20, which says, “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God,” but I don’t think I truly believed it. My behavior indicated that I thought my anger could produce righteousness—or right living.

Whenever the kids shoved each other or didn’t obey, I got angry. Whenever my husband didn’t invest in conversation or didn’t help with the kids, I got angry. I used my anger to try to gain control. Rather than waiting for God to change hearts, I wanted to. But like the verse says, anger can’t produce righteousness. It only spreads more anger.

My Anger’s Root

About a decade ago, God started using my anger to reveal my control-craving heart. I started recognizing that my surface-level anger stemmed from an underlying desire for control. So to rid myself of anger, I’d have to rip out its root—control.

I learned to ask myself a root-exposing question. Whenever I felt the anger rising, I would say, “Okay, Shannon. What are you trying to control here?” Or “What do you feel like you’re losing control of?” More often than not, my anger resulted from wanting control.

Take the situation with the evil-looking bat, for instance. What was causing me to be so angry? If I’m honest, I wasn’t throwing a fit because of the actual threat of the bat. My kids had been playing outdoors all morning, and if they had come across a bat in the yard, I have no doubt that they would have run to me in alarm. What I was really reacting to was a husband I couldn’t control.

I wanted him to be the sort of dad who doesn’t put his kids at risk. So by stamping my foot and insisting that he pace back and forth in the yard, I was saying, “How dare you fail to be the protective daddy that I want for my children? That makes me feel insecure. It makes me worry that everything’s out of control. So to punish you and make sure this doesn’t happen again, I’m going to throw a disrespectful tantrum. I demand that you be the husband and father I want you to be!”

Oh how my anger falls short. It only causes my husband (and other people) to resist me. But here’s what I am learning: When I settle this matter of control, it soothes my hot temper. When I fill my heart and mind with the truth that God is in control and I am not, it allows me to lay down the burden of controlling others. By ripping out the root of control, I pull out the weeds of anger as well.

And ironically, when I trust God to take control rather than claiming that it’s all up to me, I actually have more influence for good! My husband listens to my input most when I am respectful. He hears far more in a soft, kind request than in an angry, jaw-clenching demand. And most importantly, he is far receptive to God’s gentle leading when his wife isn’t screaming in his ear.

Finding Peace and Security

When my frantic, inner Control Girl says, “You have to do something!” it tempts me to fly into a rage every time. My craving for control is what prompts me to run ahead of God, stamp my foot, and jab my finger in the air.

But when I listen to the voice of the Spirit, who reminds me that He is in control so I don’t have to be, I find the peace and security that control never brings.

What are you frantic or angry about? Is there something you’re trying to control? Are you trying to produce in someone else what only God can produce? Today, what is one way you will surrender control back to God?

For more information on Shannon’s book, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control From Seven Women in the Bible, go to ControlGirl.com.

How did you do on the 5 C {Freedom} Challenge?

Sorry guys. I meant to get this post up on Monday–the last day of the 5 C Challenge–but this week’s sand has slipped through the hourglass!

So…. HOW DID YOU DO?

On July 4, many of us took on the following challenge:

Words are like rudders. They can turn us in a new direction. For those of us striving to go from Control Girls to Jesus Girls, words are a great place to start.

So how did you do? I’d LOVE to hear what you learned about yourself, and what the results were.

Here are some things I learned:

  • I have so far to go. Gracious, you would think after writing a book about this, I’d have more staying power. I guess it’s encouraging to hear what James says: “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body.” (James 3: 2) I failed regularly in each of these categories. But the first step of repentance is admitting sin. What did you learn about your own weakness with words? 
  • My words really do set direction! When I invited you to this challenge, I kept saying, “Let’s turn this ship around!” Participating in the challenged gave me clarity and direction for the other areas of life I need to give up control.  During this month’s focus on words, I decided that I needed to also go on a diet and so I joined Weight Watchers. I really think focusing on my words helped me to see the other areas in my life that were un-surrendered to the Lord. Like in the verse I just quoted, there is a correlation between our words and the direction of our hearts. Words are trend setting! How did the challenge show you other areas that you need to surrender control to God? 
  • “Complaining” needs to be one of the 5. My friend Hilma is the one who first introduced me to this challenge, and she originally had “complain” as one of the five. But since I wanted to focus on “control”, and how surrendering our words sets a new direction, I dropped the word “complain”. I shouldn’t have! Complaining is one of my most negative tendencies. I saw that over and over. And I realized that when I complain, I’m trying to get control. So next time, “complain” stays on deck! Is complaining one of your struggles also? 
  • The need for focus. So many times I just forgot that I was on the challenge! I would be in the middle of saying something through gritted teeth and thing, “Well, shoot. I just blew it again.” Stopping in the middle is better than not stopping at all, but I need to focus on my words before I speak. (By the way, if I host this challenge again, I’ll do a better job of staying in touch–and have some sort of ‘sign up’ method so you can get more regular posts and encouragement. Thanks for letting me learn along with you!) How did you do, this month, with staying focused on the goal? 
  • Meditation is key. I realized that I couldn’t wait till there was a need to bridle my tongue. I needed to bridle my heart first. I needed to begin the day by meditating on truth, and surrendering the situations that were sure to arise in the day before they happened. Here are some of the Meditation Cards that go with my book, Control Girl, which were helpful to me:

 


Did you use meditation to help you with the 5 C Challenge? What difference did it make? 

Thanks to everyone who stuck with the challenge! I hope that participating set new direction to your life. Words truly are like rudders, aren’t they? They are direction setting.

I’d love to hear about your progress, if you’d like to respond to one of the questions below, or let me know what the challenge meant to you! You can use the comment form below, or leave a comment!

Also… are you interested in receiving a FREE sampler pack of Meditation Cards or a FREE Reflections on Surrender coloring book in the mail? I’ll be telling my subscribers how to win this next week. If you don’t receive my once-in-a-while emails, Sign up here!






Blessings to you, friend. Control Girl to Jesus Girl… Let’s go!!

Send me a comment here: 

 

5 C Challenge: {Don’t Condemn}

“Do you feel like I condemn you all the time?” I searched his face, and as he started to say, “No…” I knew the answer was yes.

“What do I do that makes you feel condemned?” I asked gently, hoping for an honest response.

“Well, you just always ask these questions,” he said slowly. “Like you come to the top of the stairs and say, ‘What are you doing down there?’ Or when I’m on my laptop, you come up behind me and say, ‘What are you looking at?’ 

“I just like you always think I’m doing something wrong, and you’re just waiting to catch me.”

This conversation was really convicting to me. I realized that it’s so very true.

So many of my questions are laced with condemnation. So often my tone has traces of judgment and disapproval. I have to admit that I am often waiting to catch the people I love doing something wrong. Is this my job as a wife, mom, friend, and sister in the Lord? Or am I overstepping?

Why We Condemn

I think we tend to shower the people we love with condemnation, because we’re putting the burden of control back up on our shoulders. We control because we care. We even condemn because we care. (Really, we do!)

We want our loved ones to live sin-free, happy lives, and we think it’s all up to us to make that happen. But as we’ll inevitably learn, this isn’t possible. We can’t force our kids to be industrious, hard-working, and honest. We can’t make our husbands live lives marked by selfless integrity. We really have no control over how anyone else lives their life. The only control we have is over ourselves.

Ministry of Condemnation?

A few years ago, I remember reading in II Corinthians 3:7-11 about the “ministry of condemnation”, (which referred to the Ten Commandments) and thinking, “That’s me! I’m trying to have a ministry of condemnation in the lives of my loved ones!”

But I realized that it would be wise for me to think about this “ministry” of mine, and where it was leading. What was the effect of the Ten Commandments? What has been the result of this “ministry of condemnation”? Did it cause us to live good and holy lives?

No, the law only made a way for us to become conscious of our sin (Rom. 3:20). God gave us the Ten Commandments (along with other stories and laws) to show us just how incapable we are of living up to God’s standards. The law was meant to show us our need for Jesus. HE is our only hope of living sin-free, happy lives.

Jesus’ Condemnation-Free Ministry

When Jesus came, He did not make it His ministry to walk around pointing out sin in people. Now, to be sure, He was willing to point out pride and self-righteousness–especially of the religious leaders. But to anyone who was repentant or sorrowful about their sin, Jesus showed grace.

Once, the religious leaders brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus (John 8:1-11), wanting Him to condemn her. But even though the law would have supported stoning her (vs. 5), Jesus refused to condemn her.

Instead, Jesus turned the tables. Rather than raining down condemnation on the woman who was obviously ashamed of her sin, Jesus put the focus on these condemning leaders. He said that the one without sin should throw the first stone. And rather than standing with his arms crossed and glaring at them, Jesus leaned down and drew in the dirt as one by one, the leaders slipped away.

Jesus had grace for everyone involved, and refused to be pulled into a dispute about who was the greater sinner. All of them had sinned. Only one had a correct posture about her sin. Jesus wanted them to see that their condemnation was equally condemnable.

Gracious, what a lesson for me this is! How often am I the one dragging someone forward over something far less significant than adultery, and wanting them to be condemned by Jesus? I point angrily and cast blame with my questions. I use Bible verses and shame.

But look what Jesus does instead:

When just the woman was left, he said,

“Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:10)

Following Jesus

Picture of Jesus lavishing grace upon a woman caught in adultery, and me raining condemnation upon a thirteen-year-old caught wasting time, or glaring at a grown husband who lost his ziplock containers.  The contrast is staggering. It makes me wonder two things:

Just who do I think I am? And just what do I think I can accomplish with my condemnation?

John 3:17 says that God did not send Jesus to condemn the world, but to save the world! If I am to represent Jesus and be His messenger–both throughout the world and in my own kitchen, I am to have a ministry of grace, not condemnation.

Condemnation or Grace?

How do people naturally respond to condemnation? They become angry and defensive. They try to prove that the one condemning them is equally wrong. They withdraw. I have to admit that this is often how my family members respond to me, and it’s because they sense condemnation in my words, my tone, or my underlying message.

But how do people respond to grace? Defenses lower. Hearts become tender. They are drawn to the person who has shown grace. They become more willing to own their sin. This is what I want for my loved ones. How about you?

Let’s be women who share a ministry of grace (not condemnation) with the people we love. Let’s use language like:

  • “I’m sorry that I….”
  • “How can I help you with this?”
  • “I struggle with this, too. Would you like me to pray for us both?”

We need grace just as much as our loved ones! Thankfully, to all who repent and make Jesus their Lord, He offers grace upon grace. (John 1:16) And we should, too.

________________________________________________

Join the Challenge

Do you try to control the people you love? Join us for the 5 C {Freedom} Challenge! From now till the end of July, we’re abstaining from using words that criticize, compare, condemn, correct, and control. Words are like rudders. Let’s turn this ship around!

To join, just leave a comment or “like” on social media. But you might want to share the post also, and let somebody know. (When you’re the only one who knows about your commitment, it usually doesn’t go so well, right?) Plus, invite some friends to join you! Read more about it here.


Control-Free Parenting??

Are you struggling with how this all relates to parenting? Here’s a post I wrote about when it’s good to take control as parents, and when it’s not.

5 C Challenge: {Don’t Compare}

The other day, I was driving home and saw two brothers doing yard work together. It wasn’t their yard; it was an elderly neighbor’s. I quickly concluded that these brothers had been hired to do weekly yard work, and perhaps had even gone into “business” together.

How nice…  I mused. Two young men working hard, rather than being idle and lazy seemed quite admirable to me. But what struck me even more was the idea of brothers working together in peace and harmony. This seemed like heavenly bliss!

As I pulled into the driveway, I schemed about what I would say at dinner that night. How could I draw attention to how (AWESOME, FABULOUS AND AMAZING!!!) great it was to see siblings working together nicely, without seeming overtly manipulative? But before I had unbuckled my seatbelt, I remembered.

No comparing. 

The Power of Comparison

Comparing is one of those tactics that packs an extra punch when you’re trying to control the people you love. When you point over on that other side of the line at the people doing what you’d like them to do, your loved one feels the pressure like a shock wave. They can’t not feel it.

It hurts to be compared. It’s annoying. It’s frustrating. But is it motivating?

Perhaps for a short time. But ultimately comparison usually creates wedges and distance between people. Just think about somebody who uses comparison to make you feel badly. Are you drawn to that person? Or do you want to withdraw?

Sibling Rivalry

The Bible is filled with examples of siblings who were strikingly dissimilar:

  • Cain and Abel had completely different occupations and skills.
  • Jacob and Esau looked different and had different interests.
  • Rachel was beautiful and Leah was ugly.
  • Mary valued time with Jesus’ feet but Martha valued time serving Him.

In each instance, there was family tension because of comparison.

Notice that these siblings were different because God made them that way. It’s true in our families as well–and not just of siblings. Some of us are talkative. Others are quiet. Some like music. Others like sports. Some are book smart. Others’ have intuitive people skills.

Think of the natural differences in your family. Do you think God had something in mind when he put you all  together?

The people in my home couldn’t be more different. None of us are just alike. We each have a unique blend of personality, talents, interests, or traits. And though we have similar features, we all look different a well. But you know what? I think this is all by God’s design.

I Corinthians 12: 4-7 says:

“4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (emphasis, mine)

These verses are talking about differences in the Church. Notice the repeated use of variety/same. As individuals, we are packaged in a variety of ways, but here is what is the same: God gave each of us unique gifts which he wants us to use for the common good.

This is true in the Church. What if it was also true within families?

What if God designed my husband and kids to be unique and different from the other husbands and other kids who live on our block? And within our family, what if God made us each different from the others by design? What if God strategically gave each of us strengths that the rest of us need? What if our differences could serve as fasteners rather than wedges?

When I critically compare the people I love either with each other, or with others outside our family, is it not helpful for building them up. Instead, my comparison tears them down. (Prov. 14:1)

Words that Divide

I wish I could tell you that I abstained from telling my kids about the lawn-mowing brothers, but no. I caved in, at a particular moment during dinner when sibling rivalry once ahead reared its ugly head. (Boy, this 5 C Challenge is tough, isn’t it?) I told my lawn-care story and finished with a manipulative jab, saying, “I wish you guys could be like that…”

As you can probably guess, this only caused more resentment and frustration.  Tempers flared and we had to dismiss one family member from the table.

There, sitting at the table with one of us missing, I felt deeply repentant. These days with all of us gathered around the table are fleeting. Why had I ruined it? My comparing words hadn’t directly caused the conflict, but they had certainly added to it. (Note to self: Comparing never works in my favor, the way I think it will!)

Healing Words

Later that night when we gathered for Bible time, I apologized to my kids with all sincerity. Then I tried to balance things out by recounting an event which showcased my kids’ strengths. Only a few days prior, we had hosted a group, and they had done an excellent job of making everyone feel welcome, comfortable, and included. My kids truly are gifted in this way, and when they work together they make quite a team.

It’s amazing the way these words of affirmation brought quick healing and peace to our family. It made me wonder why I don’t use them more often. Comparison divides. It causes us all to withdraw. But noticing, appreciating, and celebrating differences brings unity. It causes us all to relax and lean in.  

Let’s be women who stop comparing and tearing apart, and start building up instead. Are you ready to begin? Start by considering these questions:

  • How are the people you love uniquely gifted?
  • What are their strengths?
  • How can you encourage each person in your family to use his/her gifts for the “common good” of your family?
  • How can you celebrate their God-given differences?
  • Do you need to apologize for using comparison to leverage something?

Ladies, our words are like rudders. Let’s turn this ship around! Rather than trying to control with words, let’s surrender our loved ones to Jesus. Let’s use our words to celebrate their differences, which were designed by their Creator!


Join the Challenge

Do you try to control the people you love? Join us for the 5 C {Freedom} Challenge! From now till the end of July, we’re abstaining from using words that criticize, compare, condemn, correct, and control. Words are like rudders. Let’s turn this ship around!

To join, just leave a comment or “like” on social media. But you might want to share the post also, and let somebody know. (When you’re the only one who knows about your commitment, it usually doesn’t go so well, right?) Plus, invite some friends to join you! Read more about it here.


Control-Free Parenting??

Are you struggling with how this all relates to parenting? Here’s a post I wrote about when it’s good to take control as parents, and when it’s not.

5 C Challenge: {Don’t Criticize}

Just after I posted the 5 C Challenge on Monday, I went out to the parking lot of our hotel, where my family was packing up. There, in the driver’s seat, was my teenager (who has his driver’s permit) saying, “Can I drive, Mom?”

The way he looked up at me with those sweet, innocent eyes reminded me of when he was a toddler asking if he could “pway wif his caws and twucks”.

I melted and got in the back seat, so my husband could commandeer the driving coach position. Believe me, I was happy to give it up!

Backseat Driving

As a self-proclaimed Control Girl, I struggle with not being in control. But especially when the one in control is a novice, inexperienced child gripping the steering wheel with wrists that I used to slap and say, “No, no!” Only that doesn’t work so well with driving.

Out of our oldest child’s forty hours of permit driving, I think I participated in about fifteen minutes. But I packed a lot of instruction into that fifteen minutes as I lectured loudly and waved with vivid hand motions, telling her all of the things she should have done “back there”.

She said it wasn’t helping. So I forfeited the drivers coaching to my husband, who is much more calm and rational in the face of acute danger and impending death.

So there I was in the back seat, buckled in and trembling. After about five involuntary outbursts, with me saying things like, “Watch out!!” and “You’re too far over!!” and “That light is red!!”, I remembered something. The 5 C Challenge.

I comforted myself with the thought that I had said the challenge would begin on the 4th of July. (I wanted us to associate biting our tongues with freedom!). So I hadn’t officially tanked in the first ten minutes of the challenge. But, still. How quickly I had forgotten.

I made it my goal to not use any critical words throughout the remainder of the car ride. I prayed that I would be an encouragement to my son. And at one point I was even able to muster a weak, “Good job, Bud.” I made it through the rest of the trip without any corrective or critical words (mostly by praying with my eyes closed and distracting myself with looking down at my phone). Oh the relief when we pulled into our destination unharmed!

Later, when I told my husband about the irony of getting in the car just minutes after I posted the 5 C Challenge, and remembering ten minutes into the trip, I said, “So that’s why I was able to make it the rest of the ride without any critical words!”

He looked at me in amused disbelief. “Really, hon?” he said. “You don’t think you were critical?” Then he dropped his head and started laughing.

Involuntary Criticism

So I guess there were a few panicky gasps and sharp inhales coming from the back seat. But I swear those were involuntary!

It started me thinking about how criticism begins in the heart. It just involuntarily escapes us! When we are expecting someone to fail, to crash, or to blow it, they can sense this whether we use words or not.

God calls his people to be like Him, and guess what? God is not critical. This isn’t because God fails to see all of our past mistakes and our propensity to repeat them. No, God’s mercy isn’t based on us and our potential; it’s based on Him. He shows grace and mercy because He is gracious and merciful! He is the God of all hope!

God wants us to be the people of all hope.

Romans 15: 13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” This verse offers a stark contrast to my backseat driving experience.

People of All Hope

God wants more from us than distracting ourselves with phones or closing our eyes. He wants us to be people who truly are not critical! Remember what Jesus said?

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:3)

It’s a rhetorical question. Why do we only see the other person’s blind spot? Why do we only see the ways they’re crossing the center line? It’s because that’s all we’re looking at. We don’t even notice the way our critical spirit is causing stress and frustration.

The irony hit me, as I pictured myself in that back seat. I always think that my harsh critical words are going to help keep the people I love in the center of the lane. I think that if I can only point out all of the ways they’re swerving to the right or left, I’ll keep them safe! But really, my critical spirit only makes them tense and guarded.

In this case, it wasn’t even words–only my sharp breaths that were creating tension in an already stress-filled car. What my son needed, as he navigated morning traffic on a congested road, was help and encouragement. He needed help seeing the upcoming turn and the person on a bike. He needed encouragement from parents who believe in him, and are confident that he can do well.

Everyone needs encouragement. Everyone needs help. When we have this encouragement and help from others, we can move forward, anchored in the center of the lane. Harsh criticism, on the other hand, causes us to grip the steering wheel and doubt ourselves and make more mistakes. 

Anchored in Hope

I want to be a wife and mom and sister and friend who gives encouragement and help, don’t you? I don’t want to be that critical person who causes everyone to tense up and start making mistakes. But how can I change? Here’s the key.

I can only swap out my critical spirit for encouragement and help when–at my core–I have hope. Not hope in myself to make everything turn out right, but hope in God who actually is in control.

 

This burden I carry of trying to keep everyone safe by telling them all the things they’re doing wrong? God invites me to lay that down. He does a much better job of it than I ever could. And I get the easy part! I get to offer criticism-free help and encouragement.

My Plan

So here’s my plan. The next time I feel the need to wave my arms and holler to someone I love about how they’re about to drive their lives off a cliff, I will do this instead. I will quiet myself before God and say, “Lord, I trust that you’ve got this. I don’t have to control it. Thank you for this person that I love. Show me how to help them without being critical. Help me to be an encouragement to them.”

Now that, my friends, could turn this ship around. Don’t you think? How is God convicting you of critical words?What difference do you see when you stop criticizing and start encouraging?


Join the Challenge

Want to join the 5 C {Freedom} Challenge, which runs through the end of July? All you have to do is leave a comment or “like” on social media. But you might want to share the post also, and let somebody know. (When you’re the only one who knows about your commitment, it usually doesn’t go so well, right?) Plus, invite some friends to join you! Read more about it here.


Control-Free Parenting??

Are you struggling with how this all relates to parenting? Here’s a post I wrote about when it’s good to take control as parents, and when it’s not.

5 C {Freedom} Challenge

This challenge goes out to women who…

  • Love to make things turn out right
  • Often feel driven to take or keep control
  • Struggle to tame the tongue, especially when they’re angry or fretting

If any or all of the above describe you, please consider joining me from now till the end of July for the…

Five C {Freedom} Challenge

Through the end of July, our commitment and prayer will be: “Lord, today I will not use words to Criticize, Compare, Condemn, Correct, or Control.”*

Words are one of the primary ways that we women try to control the people we love. We know just how to raise our voices, ask repeated questions, use an inflammatory tone. We know just the right details to share with whom. We know just the right facial expression, sigh, or body language that will get the greatest results.

And what results are we looking for? Control. We use words like an electric fence–zapping the people we love and keeping them on the straight path, which leads to the happy ending we have all worked out for them. And now that it’s possible to send words out electronically, we have an extra zaps of power at our disposal, which we can send out to any location at any moment.

Though we can master the art of using words to control, we cannot ultimately control outcomes. A wife can’t use critical words to make her husbands shape up. A mom can’t use comparison to cause a lagging child to keep up. A mother-in-laws can’t use condemning words to force her daughter-in-laws to conform.

Sure, her words have an effect. But not the one she intends. By using these critical, comparing, condemning, correcting words in an effort to gain control, a woman only frustrates, demoralizes, and irritates the people she loves. They become defensive and pull away for her, and as a result she has less influence; not more.

A New Rudder

If you’ve read or are reading Control Girlyou know that my hope is for women to turn and join me on a path of transformation from Control Girl to Jesus Girl. It’s a path of surrender, where we say as Jesus did, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”

But I always caution women that this new path isn’t easy or downhill. Taking control is the intuitive thing. Surrendering to God is an uphill, gritty process of learning to say no to ourselves and yes to God. Yet it leads to the peace, security, and hope we’re all ultimately longing for when we take control.

So how do we turn in this new direction? What tangible steps can we take? I’d like to suggest we start with our words. James compares our tongues to a rudder and a bridle. James 3:4-5 says,

Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.”

So how are our tongues like rudders? Here’s how: Words are direction-setting.

Heart Training

Think of it this way. Suppose there’s something I really want to say, but know I shouldn’t. When I choose to surrender to God and stay quiet, this has an effect on my heart. Rather than caving in to myself, I’ve just given God control. This is a complete shift in direction.

Now suppose there are fifty-three times, over the next 24 hours, that I don’t say some controlling thing I’d really like to say? This has a cumulative effect! Each time I bite my tongue, I’m training my heart in the art of surrender. I’m learning to give God control rather than take control, myself. The more I surrender, the more I posture my heart to surrender the next time.

So, let’s use our tongues like rudders over the next four weeks. Rather than continuing to struggle under this burden of control, let’s turn ourselves in the direction of freedom. Do you want to be free of this ugly Control Girl habit of using words to get control? Me, too.

The 5 C Freedom Challenge begins now through the end of July. Want to take the challenge? Just “like” or leave a comment on the blog or social media. I’ll be doing some giveaways and sharing an encouraging post each week. Will you invite some friends to join us? Just forward this post and ask, “Who’s in?”

Let’s do this together!

*Thanks to my friend, Hilma Conklin for inspiring the idea of the 5 C Challenge!

Five C Freedom Challenge

This challenge goes out to women who…

  • Love to make things turn out right
  • Often feel driven to take or keep control
  • Struggle to tame the tongue, especially when they’re angry or fretting

If any or all of the above describe you, please consider joining me in four week challenge called the…

Five C {Freedom} Challenge.

Through the end of July, our commitment and prayer will be: “Lord, today I will not use words to Criticize, Compare, Condemn, Correct, or Control.”

 

Words are one of the primary ways that we women try to control the people we love. We know just how to raise our voices, ask repeated questions, use an inflammatory tone. We know just the right details to share with whom. We know just the right facial expression, sigh, or body language that will get the greatest results.

And what results are we looking for? Control. We use words like an electric fence–zapping the people we love and keeping them on the straight path, which leads to the happy ending we have all worked out for them. And now that it’s possible to send words out electronically, we have an extra zaps of power at our disposal, which we can send out to any location at any moment.

Though we can master the art of using words to control, we cannot ultimately control outcomes. A wife can’t use critical words to make her husbands shape up. A mom can’t use comparison to cause a lagging child to keep up. A mother-in-laws can’t use condemning words to force her daughter-in-laws to conform.

Sure, her words have an effect. But not the one she intends. By using these critical, comparing, condemning, correcting words in an effort to gain control, a woman only frustrates, demoralizes, and irritates the people she loves. They become defensive and pull away for her, and as a result she has less influence; not more.

A New Rudder

If you’ve read or are reading Control Girl, you know that my hope is for women to turn and join me on a path of transformation from Control Girl to Jesus Girl. It’s a path of surrender, where we say as Jesus did, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”

But I always caution women that this new path isn’t easy or downhill. Taking control is the intuitive thing. Surrendering to God is an uphill, gritty process of learning to say no to ourselves and yes to God. Yet it leads to the peace, security, and hope we’re all ultimately longing for when we take control.

So how do we turn in this new direction? What tangible steps can we take? I’d like to suggest we start with our words. James compares our tongues to a rudder and a bridle. James 3:4-5 says,

Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.”

So how are our tongues like rudders? Here’s how: Words are direction-setting.

Heart Training

Think of it this way. Suppose there’s something I really want to say, but know I shouldn’t. When I choose to surrender to God and stay quiet, this has an effect on my heart. Rather than caving in to myself, I’ve just given God control. This is a complete shift in direction.

Now suppose there are fifty-three times, over the next 24 hours, that I don’t say some controlling thing I’d really like to say? This has a cumulative effect! Each time I bite my tongue, I’m training my heart in the art of surrender. I’m learning to give God control rather than take control, myself. The more I surrender, the more I posture my heart to surrender the next time.

So, let’s use our tongues like rudders over the next four weeks. Rather than continuing to struggle under this burden of control, let’s turn ourselves in the direction of freedom. Do you want to be free of this ugly Control Girl habit of using words to get control? Me, too.

The 5 C Freedom Challenge begins now through the end of July. Want to take the challenge? Just “like” or leave a comment on the blog or social media. I’ll be doing some giveaways and sharing an encouraging post each week. Will you invite some friends to join us? Just forward this post and ask, “Who’s in?”

Let’s do this together!

*Thanks to my friend, Hilma Conklin for inspiring the idea of the 5 C Challenge!

Control Girl Playlist

I’ve been promising this for a while…. Here’s a list of my favorite songs that capture the message of my new book, Control Girl. I hope that they will speak truth and encouragement to you on your journey from Control Girl to Jesus Girl! So thankful for these artists, and their heart for surrender to God.

Do you have other song suggestions? Please feel free to send them to me! Blessings to you.

 

(Control Girl Quiz) Does God seem far away?

If you haven’t done so yet, I invite you to Take the Control Girl Quiz! Or if you’ve already taken it, check out the Control Girl Quiz Series, where I’m working through each of the quiz questions week by week. Also, I’m telling your stories in a “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” series.

Today I’m discussing Quiz Question #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?


Wanting Control at Age 17

When I was 17, I spent a week of summer break at camp with my church youth group. True to tradition, there was a campfire on Friday night, where we were given opportunity to recommit the following year to God. I was terribly conflicted.

After the camp fire, rather than going back to my cabin, I asked the speaker–Pastor Ken Rudolph, if we could talk.

Pastor Rudolph led me to a quiet place by the lake, and I tried to explain the conflicting emotions I was experiencing. I was a Christian. I still believed in Jesus. I didn’t want to leave the Church. But I also did not want to live my life for God.

The idea of giving up my whole life–or at least the coming year–was intolerable.  It was my senior year, and more than anything else, I wanted to fit in at school. I wanted to be well-liked. I wanted to be included. If I followed Jesus, I was quite sure I would be excluded, and that thought filled my heart with dread.

Pastor Rudolph encouraged me. He said that he thought God wanted to do big, exciting things with my life. He could see how God might want to use me for His kingdom, but he also knew that God would not make the decision for me. would have to make it myself. He pressed me to make a decision by breakfast and let him know. Was I going to live my senior year for God, or for myself?

With My Ears Plugged

The next morning, I avoided eye contact with Pastor Rudolph. I avoided his table at breakfast. The bus pulled out, and I waved at Pastor Rudolph, knowing that I hadn’t answered his question out loud, but I had made my choice.

I wanted my senior year for myself. I would follow God afterward.

I spent that year with my ears plugged to the things of the Lord. I went to church, but I didn’t listen. I did not open my Bible. I did not pray. God seemed very far away and irrelevant to my life. I didn’t feel as though I needed Him. And I didn’t want Him messing up my plans.

I had always assumed that this was the way to be happy. Always before I had thought of myself as being “held back” from enjoying life, because I was trying to do what God wanted. But now, I was choosing based on what wanted!

I didn’t go crazy. I’m not sure if anyone even noticed. It was an internal thing. I had set myself free from the burden of trying to please God. Yet surprisingly, this didn’t turn out to be the path to eternal joy. Rather than being happy and at peace, I was actually really angry.

I fumed at my parents and slammed lots of doors. I blew up at my little sister. I was angry at the whole world. Once, a random woman followed me home because in my anger, I had been driving recklessly. She stood in my driveway and lectured me about potential consequences, but I just hopped in the car, and drove away in even more anger.

I’ve talked before (and throughout Control Girl) about the correlation I see between control and anger. I didn’t see this, as a teenage girl, of course, but looking back I see that my anger stemmed from not being able to control the universe.

I couldn’t make certain peer groups invite me in. I couldn’t make a certain boy like me back. I couldn’t make the whole world bend to respond the way I wanted. No matter what I did to adapt or make myself more likeable, I was not ultimately in control of how things played out, and this realization made me mad.

A Distant God

If you had asked me about God during this time, I probably would have said that God seemed distant. I didn’t feel like God particularly cared about me. He certainly wasn’t giving me the things I wanted. But here’s what I failed to see: I was the one who had pulled away from God and created the distance between us; not the other way around.

It’s pretty logical that God would seem distant if we’re pulling away from Him, right? But we rarely think of it as our fault. We sulk, cry, pout, and shake our fist at heaven, saying, “Are you even there, God? Do you even care?”

Yet if we’re not opening God’s Word, which is the primary way He speaks to us, how can we expect to hear God’s voice or sense His presence? If we’re not on our knees in prayer, begging Him to reveal Himself, how can we expect to hear His response to our pleas? We’re like the woman who has moved out, changed her cell phone number, and gotten a restraining order against her husband, yet says, “Our failed marriage is all his fault. He’s just so distant and uncaring!”

Thankfully, our God is longsuffering and patient with us. Lamentations 3:23-24 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” No matter how long we’ve been hard hearted, or how far we’ve wandered, our God is always ready to welcome us back. James 4:8 says, “ Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

Seeking God is how we find Him. Taking control is how we ignore Him.

Drawing Near

Thankfully, I was miserable trying to manage my life without God. During my freshman year of college, I began to do as James 4:8 says by confessing my sin and drawing near to God. I’ve written here about a moment when God leaned down low from heaven with undeniably providential timing, just to show a college freshman that He cared and He wanted me back.

Friends, if we believe that God doesn’t care or that He isn’t close, there’s no way we’ll give Him control. Why would we take a leap of faith, if we’re not convinced God is there to catch us? Why would we give Him the wheel, if we don’t believe that He will lead us somewhere good? Unless we believe that God is in control, and that this is good news for us, we won’t give Him the reins. Instead, we’ll keep them clutched in our own little Control Girl hands, convinced that it’s all up to us.

I don’t know what you’re going through today. You might be experiencing something that makes you say, “God, where are you? Do you even care?” But I beg you to consider that God has already answered those questions in His word. He says that yes, He cares!

“…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” I Peter 4:7

And He says that yes, He is near!

The Lord is near to all who call on him; to all who call on Him in truth.” Psalm 148:18

In closing, let me share a quote from page 32 of Control Girl: 

When I put God in charge of my Happy Ending, I concede what is true. He’s in control, and I am not.

I do have choices, but every contingency in my life is attached to an ending held firmly in God’s grasp. I’m not sure how this all works, but because God is kind and wise, this is good news. He is weaving together an ending far happier than anything I could construct.

If the ending were in my hands, I’d be in constant hysterics, trying to manage loose threads and snags. I’d surely be a frantic, obsessive Control Girl. But knowing that the last page of my story is settled gives me peace, security, and hope for the journey. If I start with the secure ending, then flip backward, it’s easier to give God control of the things that concern me today.

Even when my happiness seems to be unraveling, I am not undone, because I know that nothing has slipped from God’s hands. In all things, I can say with confidence, “Not my will buy yours be done.”


Are You a Control Girl?

Take the Quiz to find out! Then come check your answers with the “Control Girl Quiz Series”. This series is meant to get you thinking about your own possible struggles with control. As a follow up, I hope you’ll consider my new book, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible.

Control Girl to Jesus Girl

Have you checked out the inspiring, real life stories in the “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 for the future.

(Control Girl Quiz) Do you have a lifestyle of “image control”?

If you haven’t done so yet, I invite you to Take the Control Girl Quiz! Or if you’ve already taken it, check out the Control Girl Quiz Series, where I’m working through each of the quiz questions week by week. Also, on Thursdays, I’ll be telling your stories in a “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” series.

Today I’m discussing Quiz Question 11:

Do you have a lifestyle of “image control”? Do guard yourself against hurt by trying to control 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?

“Image Control” is a term we sometimes use to describe how celebrities and politicians try to manage the way they are depicted to and perceived by the watching world. But regular people like me do it, too.

Here are some examples of “Image Control”:

  • Taking 27 selfies then cropping the best one before uploading to Instagram.
  • Changing clothes six times and examining myself at every angle before leaving the house.
  • Arriving at the event, then making everyone pile back into the van to return home so that my son can get some pants that are long enough.
  • Obsessing over having every square inch of my house clean (including the medicine cupboard and the shelves in the garage) because guests are coming for dinner.
  • Staying up till 2 a.m. working on table decorations for the women’s event at church.
  • Tossing and turning all night, obsessing over the stupid thing I said in front of a group of people.

Can you relate to any of these? If so, the chance is good that like me, you’re a Control Girl.

Often we don’t think of obsession with appearances or performance as Control Girl issues. Overachievers and perfectionists are just driven to do well, right? Women just naturally want their homes and families to reflect well upon them, right?

Maybe. But I think that there’s sometimes a desire for self-protection lurking beneath that desire to achieve. We don’t want to be hurt. We fear rejection. We loath being thought of as “less than” again. And so how do we protect ourselves against these sorts of hurts and disappointments? We take control.

Listen to an excerpt from my chapter on Leah in Control Girl: 

 Pain as deep as Leah’s can absolutely define you. It can set a course for the future. You vow to never let someone hurt you like that again. You put up walls, withdraw, numb yourself to relationships, or limit yourself to superficiality. You become rigidly independent to prove you don’t need people.

Or you become a producer. A perfectionist. You throw yourself into your work, ministry, or appearance to define your worth. You attract new girlfriends who think you’re fun, new men who think you’re sexy.

None of these attempts to ward off feelings of worthlessness are overtly controlling. But there is a defensive aspect to control, isn’t there?

We might project confidence, rigidity, or independence, when inside we’re just hurting. We’re trying to defend ourselves against being hurt again. And while it’s not bad to keep others from controlling us, sometimes defensiveness becomes a destructive pattern.

We guard against everyone. We trust no one. Including God.

If you have been hurt deeply in the past, or treated like worthless trash by others, no doubt this has affected you. Maybe you’ve reacted in one of the ways described above, attempting to ward off feelings of worthlessness.

Glance back over your shoulder. Do you see any defensive aspects of control if your past?

If so, there’s an irony I hope you will consider.  You can throw yourself into proving your worth, yes. But can you control the outcome? Can you make people appreciate your work? Can you force others to be drawn to you? Can you be in relationships yet still fortify yourself against hurt?

No, you can’t.  But here’s what you can do instead. You can give God control of deciding how much you’re worth. If you’re wondering how much worth God assigns to you, take a look at the cross. Look at what He gave up, just to have you.

Friend, won’t you choose to trust God, rather than other people, in determining your worth? This is one very significant way of giving Him control.


Are You a Control Girl?

Take the Quiz to find out! Then come check your answers with the “Control Girl Quiz Series”. This series is meant to get you thinking about your own possible struggles with control. As a follow up, I hope you’ll consider my new book, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible.

Control Girl to Jesus Girl

Have you checked out the inspiring, real life stories in the “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 for the future.