When my child throws his candy wrapper on the floor.

When my teenager leaves her curling iron on.

When my husband drips bleach onto the carpeting.

When a coworker fails to respond to a client.

I’m the woman who feels compelled to do something. I am driven by some innate force to take control and get things back on track! So, is this wrong? I mean, what’s going to happen if nobody takes issue with the candy wrapper, the fire hazard curling iron, the bleach, or the neglectful coworker? Am I not just being responsible? And what if I’m the only responsible person in the room!

Here are a couple of thoughts to consider as a responsible—but also potentially controlling—woman.

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Control is a Relational Hazard

Being responsible is a wonderful trait. We need more responsible people in the world, who care about candy wrappers and fire hazards. Truly, we do! And as my friend Katie points out in her  book, Made like MarthaGod gave some of us the fortitude to get things done, which is a good thing!

But here’s the trouble. People don’t want to be controlled by you. Yes, there are those who welcome having you sweep in and do things they don’t want to do. But even those people have limits. Do you doubt this? If so, try asking the people in your life, “Do you like it when I control you?”

Think about the people who love you most and answer:

  • Do they have their hearts wide open to you? Do you feel freedom in the relationship or can you sense that walls are up?
  • Do they roll their eyes when you talk? Do you think they might be rolling their eyes, as they walk away in the middle of your sentence?
  • Do they instantly become irritable or angry? When you challenge them or try to get them moving in the right direction, does this trigger a strong defensive reaction?
  • Do they quickly retreat and stop talking? When you step forward with a “reminder”, is it obvious that you have the power, and you won’t be challenged? Ever?

Of course none of these things are entirely up to you, but you do have some influence over the walls that go up, the eyes that go rolling, the angry defensiveness, or the immediate passivity. These are all ways that people react toward controlling women. Even the people who love you deeply will react in these ways if they’ve learned that it’s not worth it to cross you when you’re insistent about something.

If there’s a chance you might be a Control Girl, consider this. When you insert yourself, take charge, give reminders or make demands, are you producing the lasting change you hope for? Have the candy candy wrappers stopped fluttering to the floor and the curling irons stopped burning hot and the bleach stopped dripping? If not, then why continue clamping down and insisting on your own way?

Nagging doesn’t work well. Stepping in isn’t a permanent solution. And taking control can be a relational hazard. So really, being a controlling woman is often the irresponsible approach.

Nagging doesn't work well. Stepping in isn't a permanent solution. And taking control can be a relational hazard. So really, being a controlling woman is often NOT the responsible approach. But what is? Click To Tweet

How to be Responsible with the Future

On the True Woman Blog, where I’m a regular contributor, Julie responded to my post about controlling moms. She shared about her concerns for her four year old daughter. Her daughter was smart and capable, but still wasn’t bringing her dishes to the sink. And if Julie asked her to change her shirt, rather than struggling to get it over her head, Julie’s daughter would expect her mom to immediately help. Julie was concerned about a long term pattern of laziness.

Oh, how I can relate to Julie’s concerns. When my kids were little, I had all sorts of worries and concerns like these. And now that I have big kids, my concerns are only over bigger issues. Now I want to control who they date, where they go to college, and how they handle moral issues.

Here’s what I wrote Julie:

Julie, thanks so much for sharing your heart and concerns for your daughter. Can I encourage you with something? I noticed that several times you referred to being concerned about where this lead or what patterns might form. Often our controlling hearts are tied to a fear of the future. But if we can entrust the future to God, then we can work backward and entrust the moment by moment things that concern us.

Often we say God is in control of the future, but live like we are. I wonder if it would help to spend five minutes each morning, entrusting your daughter’s future to God. Maybe pick a verse that encourages you to put your hope in God and claim that verse in prayer over your daughter’s future. Then, when she doesn’t put her plate away or doesn’t try harder to get her shirt off, you don’t have to deal with the unforeseeable future, and what you suspect it might hold. You’ve already entrusted that to God! You can just focus on the plate or the shirt, and give the calm instruction your daughter needs.

This has helped me so much. I have teens now, and boy can I fall into extrapolating out into the future. It helps to remind myself that God truly is in control, and I can trust him.

God is ultimately responsible for the future, not us. We can trust Him. Will you take my advice to Julie today? Spend five minutes entrusting the future of person or situation you’re most frustrated with to God. Choose a Bible verse that encourages you to put your hope in the future. (Lots of meditations for you to choose from here.)

Rather than extrapolating into the future, remind yourself that God is in control—which means you don’t have to be.

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