Despite my heavy work load getting the new edition of Abyss & Apex Magazine up this week I simply could not resist working on more of the manuscript for Wolves’ Masquerade. It has an intriguing title, doesn’t it?
Wolves’ Masquerade is a non-fiction book I simply have not been able to get out of my head, one that talks about how types of dysfunction masquerades as Christian “virtues.” Here’s an excerpt of the work-in-progress:
6. Control Via Guilt Masquerading as Discipline
Another wolf attitude is Control Via Guilt, which can masquerade as the Christian virtue of Discipline.
A controlling person will take care of you, for your own good! Christians are called to be compassionate, but the proper response to someone trying to push you into doing what they want by using guilt is, “No.” The blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin AND guilt[i], so a person trying to make you do things via guilt is using a dead weapon of the defeated enemy of our souls.
Here’s how such controlling attitudes work and can infiltrate themselves into our homes and church life.
Codependency starts at home, and is fear-based. This is especially true of the children of alcoholics or persons with other substance abuse problems, because during childhood children learn the false but iron-clad rule that they must try to control the environment and appease the addict to feel safe. But it’s not exclusive to those environments.
If a codependent person’s self-esteem is based on the opinions of others, not on their relationship with Christ, controlling those around them helps codependents feel safe and secure. As a Christian your security, however, should be in your relationship with Christ. The Christian virtue of self-control comes from the inside, from the Lord (2nd Timothy 1:7); it cannot be imposed from the outside, by others. Unless you’re a dealing with a child or it’s a matter of a joint decision in a marriage, what you control ends at the tip of your nose. All you can control are your own responsibilities, your reactions to things that happen, and your part of your walk with God. Otherwise, every believer needs to relinquish the impulse to control that comes from our own sinful natures to God’s guidance through our “new man”: Christ in us.
Dysfunctional controlling can be as simple as someone pushing you to volunteer past your ability to give time and resources or as blatant as a cult. But usually it’s more subtle.
Example: My mother-in-law used to give my husband and myself things we never asked for (usually broken in some way, I might add). Then we “owed her favors” for “all she’d done for us.” Others have tried the same old trick: people do something for you and now you’re supposedly in their debt. They’re trying to control you with their generosity.
Another common control mechanism via guilt is something like when a mother complains to an adult child that, “You never call, you never write.” Someone – say, a mother-in-law – may have a perfectly legitimate claim on a potion of your time and attention, but will blow that out of proportion. The word of God says that children leave their parents and become one with their spouses, and the role of the parent changes to a less active thing… the marriage is primary. You’ll also see this mechanism with certain employers and certain friends. Whatever it is no matter how unreasonable, you somehow “owe” things to them.
This sort of controlling means the person, again, does not have good boundaries. And the guilt they try to lay on you is false guilt.
For the controller: If you are a Christian whose deepest motivations are fear-based it helps to remind yourself that “Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18). You don’t have to control everyone and everything around you to feel safe. Psalm 4:8 says, I will lie down and sleep peacefully, for you, Lord, make me safe and secure.” (emphasis mine)
For the person being controlled: Learn detachment. Detachment is simply figuring out what your responsibility a situation is and doing only that. Don’t be guilted into doing any of another person’s work! Once you’ve learned detachment, if someone tries to rope you into doing their work or pushes you around you can simply say, “No; that’s not my job!” Look for the things that are expected of you; you can sort them into two columns labeled “My Responsibility:” and “Not My Responsibility.” Then fulfill your responsibilities and politely tell the person trying to control you that certain things are their responsibility (unless, of course you’re in an abusive situation and in danger—in that case get help.) If you want to help your dysfunctional relative, church member, or friend note that detachment and taking care of only your responsibilities can be modeled. Help them by being a good example. You can be a shining example of being kind and loving but still be firm about your boundaries.
Are others trying to control you from the outside? Remember that self-control – discipline – is one of the fruits of the Spirit, it and comes from the Lord, from the inside. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
[i] Hebrews 10:22