Defining Control

It’s Narcissist Friday!

There’s probably some way to make the “does not equal” sign in the writing program I use, but I don’t know it. So, I’ll just write it out.

Authority does not equal control
Leadership does not equal control
Hierarchy does not equal control
Protection does not equal control
Boundaries do not equal control

Add whatever you want to that list. Control is not what most people think it is. I think a strong case could be made that control of another person is a bad thing.

Now, I know that many readers are trying to think of a situation where control is important. A teenager who wants to experiment with bad things needs control. Criminals need to be controlled. People in the military need control. I understand.

But stop to think about that. Control almost always requires either force or manipulation. Teenagers live under threat against disobedience. Criminals are locked up or monitored. People in the military are brought under subjection to leaders and orders. To control means to make another person do what you want, whether they want to or not. Control is almost a violent act.

Narcissists crave control. In their perfect world, narcissists would have everyone bend to their will. Children, spouses, bosses and employees, church members, and others would serve the narcissists with perfection. Robotic obedience.

In 1975, the film “Stepford Wives” presented a idyllic town where the men “exchanged” their wives for lookalike robots. No one could tell the difference between the robot and the former wife, except for the fact that the wives now were perfectly obedient and servile. The suggestion was that controlling men would be happy with robotic submission.

But I don’t think a narcissist would like that at all. Maybe some would, but most narcissists use control to make themselves feel strong. They try to overcome their feelings of inferiority and weakness by forcing others to do what they want through power or manipulation. Narcissists don’t want robots, they want slaves. In fact, they want worshipers. The narcissist wants to be seen as deserving service and adoration. People should bow to the narcissist because the narcissist is superior. A programmed robot wouldn’t be enough.

The narcissist’s dilemma is that in order to control another person, he has to accept that the other is a person. The more that is evident to the narcissist, the more he/she will want to push the personhood of the other away. Destroying the uniqueness and worth of a spouse or child is part of the control. Narcissistic control is a violent act.

Narcissists hate in order to receive what they think is love. They diminish the person only to find that the love is also diminished. The narcissist might be able to get the other to do what he/she wants, but there is always that anger, that disdain. They strive to control, because they are afraid that the other might have some advantage, but they hate the ones they control for being inferior. Ugly.

So, back to the beginning. Is control always bad? Don’t some people need to be under control? Let me answer that this way: control is never a right goal. Control may be a necessary tool, but it is a tool with a purpose. The goal for the criminal is rehabilitation, real change. The goal for the child is wisdom and understanding. The goal for the soldier is training and discipline. Not control. Control as a tool must always be seen as temporary.

Why? Because control ultimately devalues the person. People have value in their independence and will. They add to all of us with their differences. Control takes that away. Yes, I understand the need to protect society and children. Yes, I understand that some people are so broken that they cannot live without some form of control. To leave them on their own is to risk letting them damage themselves and others. Sometimes we can’t do that. But the goal is to lift them up as persons so they can be safe and enjoy life in good ways. Control is not the goal.

Control is a goal for the narcissist. Submission, obedience, worship. The narcissist wants all this and more. He wants it from real people, persons with value and individuality. And he will strip them of everything to get it.

But doesn’t God want to control us? No. Doesn’t He force our obedience with threats and power? No. Let me ask: How well is God controlling you these days? If that’s what He wanted, He certainly could do it. He could turn you into a Stepford robot. But He doesn’t. He values you as a person. He lets you make mistakes. He even lets you sin. Then He calls to you in love. He warns of the dangers of sin, but then He calls you back to His heart. That’s not control. That’s love.

9 Comments

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9 responses to “Defining Control

  1. Kristi

    That’s beautiful. Thank you. Kx

  2. cfeather54

    Romans 8:9 states we are controlled by the Spirit, not by the flesh. So control is part of being a Christian. Perhaps it is a matter of definitions. Don’t know. Just going by what preachers always said, you have to yield to God’s control in order to be a good Christian. Whatever, narcissists sure love control and will use all their gaslighting and emotional manipulation tools in the box to do that. They control by first compelling us to love, then go to work with all the hate tools.

    • Great comment! I see control of the spirit as the communion of my spirit with His. We are one, He says. So I am acting out of my own nature when I act in concert with His Spirit. When I do not, I am not being who I am. His will is for me to be controlled by who I am rather than by who I am not.

      • This is a wonderful post, and a great comment. I am sharing this with my stepdaughter, who is being horribly and unfairly controlled on her job. After 5 years on this job that she loves and is very good at, someone new came in and is creating a very hostile work environment. From everything I have been told, it’s all about this new person wanting to control and play games with people’s lives.

        I would greatly appreciate prayer for my precious stepdaughter. Her initials are J.E. Thank you!!

  3. TRStupar

    Control IS abuse.

  4. just ... K

    What an excellent, insightful article. Thank you so much for writing it!

  5. Batya Ahul

    I have plagiarised this quote “ Authority without accountability is the most dangerous form of leadership “ I apologise I can’t remember who to credit it to but I believe it was a medical doctor on Twitter who promotes patient safety.
    I once attended a church where the above statement was true and I would say the “Stepford wife” narrative was alive and well there. Many women have given up high-profile professions to stay at home and look after children – this is admirable-but not when it is repeatedly advertised. I was made to feel guilty that I was still going out to work & The fact that I had an opinion as a woman was seen as quite dangerous…..

    • Batya Ahul

      Lady Quixote/Linda Lee, I am praying for your step daughter JE & also for you.
      Working for someone with narcissistic tendencies is so painful & difficult, but God is good all the time & His will will always prevail😎xxxx

  6. Singing Eagle

    “…… control ultimately devalues the person.” Thank you for putting words to something I wasn’t quiet sure how to explain. This is exactly what I experienced for such a long time. Whether it’s control towards me or someone else…. a constant belittling, minimizing or devaluing of others as unworthy of any consideration or as if they weren’t even worth wasting a single thought on. It gives the appearance that others are beneath the narcissist. They are royalty and others are the lowly commoners who should be happy to be worthy of being seen by them. God was very patient with me as He taught me slowly how to love and value myself and allow only what HE said about me to replace the lies. The wounds that were inflicted for years took a while to heal. Learning to forgive even when someone never acknowledges the pain they caused is also by the grace of God. Thank you, Lord!

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