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The Power of Control

by Dr. Sidney W. Langston

Control often has negative connotations, but it can actually be positive as well as negative. Positive, or natural, control is exercised due to one’s position or relationship to another, for example as a boss (Titus 2:9), a parent (Col 3:20-21) or a system of government (Rom. 13:1-3).  Self-control, which is positive, is exercised in an effort to live an orderly life and to maintain meaningful and respectful relationships (Prov. 25:28; Gal. 5:16-24). David, before he was king, exercised appropriate self-control. He had the opportunity and encouragement to kill King Saul while he slept, but refused (1 Sam. 26: 8-9).


Abusive control, on the other hand, is an attempt to dominate another person in order to fulfill one’s own desires and to enhance personal security.  Individuals who exercise abusive control have no consideration for those they dominate. Abusive controllers hold people in unnecessary bondage and hinder them, as well as themselves, from fulfilling their potential in life. Their need for control disrupts their closest relationships. Over time they lose their influence with others because people get tired of them.  Abusive controllers may be well-meaning parents, spouses, friends, children, relatives, employers, colleagues or even spiritual leaders who may not be aware of their harmful behavior.


Although they may appear to handle everything with ease and confidence, abusive controllers are dependent, emotionally insecure individuals. Inside they are scared, intimidated and unfulfilled. The fear of rejection is the strong motivating force behind their actions.


Abusive controllers have a low sense of self-worth and abandon their own inner problems in favor of “fixing” the other person. In an attempt to fix others, they make excessive demands, and these demands are usually ruthlessly expressed. If the other person doesn’t get fixed, abusive controllers perceive themselves as failures. They look to those around them as their own accomplishments. As they destructively manipulate and control others, they feel needed and secure.

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