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.