Thursday, January 17, 2013

Influence vs. Control

Photo by Stickysen

Yesterday we talked about how not to give up on impossible people.  We discussed our need for meekness, and for a desire to exert influence rather than control over others.  (Of course I'm thinking of the way we interact with older children and with adults.  Naturally, with younger children especially, there are times when control is necessary. Just be sure it's loving, godly control, rather than the ungodly control detailed below.)

What's the difference between ‘influence’ and ‘ungodly control’, and why is one better than the other?  

I’m going to do some comparing and contrasting below, but I want to start with a disclaimer and some encouragement.

First, the disclaimer.  I’m a novice at this.  I’ve been a wanna-be controller my whole life, and the result has been devastating to my life and my witness.  But I’ve caught glimpses of beautiful truths that, since I’ve begun to apply them, are bringing more peace and joy and actual, healthy influence to my life.  So I write these thoughts as a convinced person thirsty for more, not as one who has “arrived.”

Second, the encouragement.  If the standards of “influencer” presented here seem discouragingly impossible, or if you’ve dabbled in this approach and not seen instant results, please read all the way through to the bottom (or skip ahead if you must) for a balancing perspective.

Godly Influence - Can only be wielded by one who is, herself, submissive to God.  (1 Co. 11:1)

Ungodly Control - Can be wielded by anyone with the ability to cause pain or pleasure, regardless of her relationship to God.

Godly Influence – As the godly influencer humbly submits to God in how she interacts with others, she also cares enough about them to give them wise and loving guidance from her position of peaceful surrender.

Ungodly Control - The controller tries to force others to do her will, and tries to usurp God's role in their lives.

Here's something to think about...can I lead anyone to trust in God and submit to Him if my number one priority is that they submit to ME?  (Yes, when we are in a legitimate place of authority, we should expect those under us to obey.  But what is our top priority when it comes to their obedience?  Who do we see as their ultimate authority?)

Godly influence – Is accepted and received by others when the influencer has earned their respect, and when they sense that she honors them, as God commanded (1 Pet 2:17).

Ungodly Control – Is resented by others who sense that the controller does NOT honor them, but rather see them as pawns on her chessboard.

Godly influence – Comes from someone who is genuinely concerned for the welfare of others, more than of self (see Php 2:4).  Such a person is not detached, and will truly suffer if the other sins.  Even so, she is more concerned with the other’s well-being than with her own.

Ungodly Control – Comes from someone who may care about others, but is more concerned with self.  Her attitude is, “I have to make you do such-and-such, because I’m so afraid of what will happen to me if things go wrong with you.  If you do what I don’t want you to do, I won’t be able to stand it.  I control you to protect myself.”

Godly influence – Comes from a parent who draws her life, peace, hope and joy from God alone, and rests securely in Him.  Such peace is itself hugely influential. Her children will know that their sins grieve her because she loves them.  But they will also see that she has Solid Rock under her feet, and they will want that for themselves.

Ungodly control – Comes from a fearful, distrusting parent who does not draw what she needs from God’s well, but rather tries to get her needs met by others.  She becomes like a leech, trying to suck life out of those around her, and terrified if she can’t make them meet her needs.  Leeching and loving are incompatible opposites, and the recipients of leeching know that they are not loved.  
    Also, the controller’s fearfulness loudly broadcasts to others that, no matter how much the controller claims to advocate trust in God, she herself has no such trust.  Again, such a parent will say, by word or action, “It will kill me if you do such-and-such!”  Her lack of faith in God to sustain her through a child’s sin makes her profession of faith a sham, and gives children no reason to trust in the God that their parent distrusts.

Godly influence – Seeks to lead people to the cross where they can be freed from guilt, and teaches them how to live by grace.

Ungodly Control – Uses guilt and fear to dominate others, and pushes them away from the liberating truths of the gospel.  This happens even (perhaps especially) if the oppressor verbally preaches the gospel.

Godly influence – Comes from love, and builds love.  The influencer is free to love, because her needs are met by God more than by other people.  When she has a rebellious child, she does not have to withdraw or kick the child out of her life in order to restore peace.  She can love because she draws her peace from God.  The godly influencer is able to be truly kind, to truly love, because she does so without ulterior motives of gaining control.

Ungodly control – Comes from self-centeredness, and inevitably becomes oppressive or even abusive.  Because this controller is not godly, even her kind acts are suspect.  Since they are truly efforts to gain control through the back door, the kindnesses will cease if they don’t work.   
Godly influence – Is mostly wielded unconsciously.  The moments of direct guidance may be powerful, but the life of the influencer has even more power, and helps make her guidance believable.  It is fondly remembered by the person being influenced, even after the influencer is gone.  She leads by following Christ, and hopes sincerely that others will come along, encouraging them to do so whenever appropriate.  Whenever someone else follows, it’s because they want what she has, not because she tries to drag them against their will.

Ungodly control – Is mostly deliberate and forceful.  It ceases as soon as the controller isn’t around, and certainly ends with her death.  Even if the controller succeeds in forcing others to follow her, she leads them to the wrong place.  Ironically, she also has an unconscious influence over others, but it is a repellant one.

Godly influence – Does not get into power struggles.  She is controlled by God alone, though she is certainly affected by those around her.  Her responses to others are dictated by God, not by those around her.  Because she is God-controlled, she is also self-controlled, and is able to respond to others in truly good and helpful ways.  She does her best to teach and lead others, but trusts God to wrestle with each sinner’s heart, including her own.  She never dreams of seeing herself as anyone’s savior.

Ungodly Control – Not only gets into power struggles, but often loses them.  Why?  Because a child learns early on that his actions dictate the parent’s responses.  The child is actually the one in power in the relationship.  Because the parent MUST maintain control, she MUST fight with the child, and is helpless to avoid any escalation the child brings about.  The parent sees herself as savior, and therefore becomes very dangerous.  To what lengths will a parent not go to save a child’s soul?  (For a tragic example of this danger, see my post about the murder of Lydia Schatz perpetrated by her controlling “Christian” parents.)

Godly influence – is forgiving.  This person knows that other people are primarily accountable to God, not to her.  Therefore, she recognizes the biblical truth that all sin is first and foremost against God, and if God forgives, we can and must forgive also.

Ungodly control – Holds grudges.  The controller sees herself as the primary victim when anyone else sins, and so she does not forgive.  If she offers forgiveness, it is only as a power play designed to bring others back to their proper position as she sees it...on their knees before her!

Godly influence – Is patient.  The influencer hopes to see others changed for the better, and is delighted if she gets to see it happen.  But she trusts God’s timing and keeps on walking in obedience to Him and love for others, even if she doesn’t immediately (or ever) see the results she was hoping for.  Her desire is to lead, but her goal is to follow.  And because of this, her goal is reachable every day, no matter how others respond. Therefore, she can live at peace and with a sense of fulfillment, even if her desires are not yet met.  Also, she knows that genuine change takes time, but it’s more permanent and real than anything she could have forced in the moment.  

Ungodly control – Needs to see results NOW!  Such a parent will use whatever means necessary to get those results (or what looks good outwardly) right away, regardless of the harm done in the process.  Though God is patient with the parent, the parent is not patient with the child, and so is a hypocrite very reminiscent of the wicked servant in Matt 18:23-34.

Godly influence – A person who exudes the kind of godly influence I’ve described will naturally see personal holiness as a great source of joy, because it allows communion with God, who is our joy.  Because this person loves God, she grows in obedience to Him throughout her life.  Her close walk with God and enjoyment of Him is her definition of success.  He is her goal, her dream, her life’s pleasure.

Ungodly control – Will “do things God’s way” as long as it “works” (defined as, “getting me the instant results I covet”).  If God’s ways don’t get the immediate, desired results, this person will abandon His ways and go off on her own, and will genuinely feel that she had no choice.  Or, she will refuse to even try do things God’s way in the first place, because she is convinced (probably rightly) that it won’t enhance her control.  God is not her goal, her dream, her life’s pleasure.  Walking with Him is not success.  Controlling others is everything.  So even when she thinks she’s walking with God because she follows certain rules, she is not really in relationship with Him. To the extent that she finds her life in other people instead of in God, to that extent she is not a person of faith.


Do you find this list discouraging?  Please don’t.  

Christ wants you to have a joyful walk of faith with Him.  He wants it so much that He lived a perfect life, died a perfect, sacrificial death, and resurrected to give new life to all who put their trust in Him.  

Confess to Him that you’ve been needing other mere mortals to be your life, but that now you will put your trust in Him as the only true source of life.  Ask Him to forgive you and make you new, to put His Holy Spirit inside of you to start changing you from the inside out.  (Or, if you know that the Holy Spirit already resides in you, ask Him to begin to work on this area in your life.)  

Seek Him first, submit to Him, obey Him no matter what results you see around you.  Walk in love as He loves, as His Spirit makes you able to love unselfishly.

You will find that your godly influence grows as long as you seek Him first, seek loving influence second, and seek ungodly control never.

No comments:

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin