She sat in my office crying her heart out seeking an answer for depression. A young mother of three children who just could not seem to get it together or define why she was so unhappy and miserable. She said she loved being a mom and her marriage was just fine. I was stumped and began to just call on the Lord to help me, help her!
Finally, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to me, “Ask her about her mother.” Up until that point her mother had not been mentioned. So I said, “Tell me about your mom.”
She looked at me in shock and literally crumbled into a sob that went on for quite a while. She finally was able to tell me that her mom controlled her entire life. She had no freedom to make her own choices with her own children. Every day her mom showed up at her house to come in and make sure she was handling her life according to what her mom wanted. She disclosed she was not free to go out with her husband unless her mom approved and was the babysitter and knew what she was doing every minute. It was causing problems in her marriage and her husband hated her mom for it.
I could see the guilt and shame come in as she talked, and the little girl qualities emerge. This girl had spent her entire life letting her mom rule everything she did. Her mom never let her grow up and she allowed it. She hated her weakness for not being able to tell her mom no, or being able to just grow up and take care of her own children or make her own decisions.
She was stuck.
I wish I could say I was able to help her. Once I began to share with her about boundaries and how the power was hers to learn to say no, she began to back track and make excuses. Her fear of her mom was palpable and it wasn’t long before I got a call that she just couldn’t afford any more sessions. I knew she just could not handle making this shift of saying no to her mother.
How sad we give others so much power over us!
Being set free is being willing to learn to let go of controllers in our lives.
Even when it is family.
There are plenty of people out there who live their lives through controlling others.
Self-control is one of the fruit of the Spirit. When we have self-control, and you get it from being with Jesus and asking for His self control to fill you, by faith, we maintain the ability to stand up to aggressive controllers who try to tell us who we should be and what we should do.
Do you have any controllers in your life?
Consider the following situation in the Bible where Peter, Jesus’ disciple, acts in a controlling manner:
Mark 8: 31-33 – “Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
One of the most important benefits of having boundaries is that we do have the ability to stand up to others when they try to control our lives. It is hard to confront but it is absolutely necessary if you want to move forward with God at the helm of your life.
It does take courage. But God has given you all you need to step out and take control of your own life.
Peter wanted to impose his own design for Jesus’ life onto Jesus, but Jesus had good boundaries; he stood up to Peter and rebuked him.
Jesus showed that he was in control of himself and would not be defined and controlled by Peter, no matter how good Peter’s intentions might have been. The truth is that Peter was thinking, not of God’s purposes, but of his own agenda. Peter was trying to rescue Jesus instead of turning the situation over to God.
Are you defined by controllers or by God?
Although we are wise to listen to others and be open to their feedback, we should never allow someone to be in control of us and define who we are.
Setting appropriate boundaries with people helps us to retain that kind of freedom and self-control.
Our actions have consequences, but If you take responsibility for things that aren’t yours–by not having boundaries, for instance–you put a roadblock into one of God’s best teaching instruments He has for His children.
The young mother I was coaching said her mom was prone to anger if she stood up to her. So, in her timidity, she walked on tiptoes around her mom, trying to placate her, and then when the mom would be pushy or tell her what to do the little-girl-mom-herself would apologize and try to repair the relationship with her mother, thus letting her mother have her way once again.
She was the one who was reaping the discord in her home, not her mother.
Enabling someone to control us is NOT walking in the love of God with them. They do not have to confront their own issues as long as you give them control over you. Their issues become yours. How can God work in their life if you are reaping the consequence of their choices and not they themselves?
That is why they can throw major manipulative fits when you finally say NO to their demands!
We aren’t meant to reap the consequences of the controller’s actions of disobedience. We are supposed to let people bear the consequences of their own actions.
We are each responsible for our own stuff.
Have you ever noticed that Jesus set limits on Himself. He didn’t heal everyone all the time; often He left areas where there were still people who needed His help because it was time to move to the next place. He carved out time to pray, away from His disciples, to spend time with God. He carved out time away from the masses, just with His disciples, to train and minister to them.
If Jesus had let His schedule be determined by what people needed Him to do rather than by what He was called to do and what He was able to do, His ministry would not have been as effective. He needed time alone to rejuvenate and time alone with God, and He took it. He knew that He couldn’t do everything–even if other people needed Him.
He had His limits.
When people join support groups for other family members of those suffering from addictions, such as Al Anon, one of the first things they are told is that you can only change yourself, and you must not take responsibility for changing another person.
But at the same time, you must also allow that other person to reap the natural consequences of their actions, or they will not change. You must stop enabling bad behavior.
Why is it that Christians think that being a pushover, or letting others get away with wrong behavior, is Christ-like?
He didn’t call us to be doormats.
God’s will is that we look more and more like Christ. In your family, are your actions encouraging others to look more and more like Christ, or are they covering up and enabling others to look more and more un-Christlike?
If you aren’t setting healthy boundaries of responsibility in your own life, then it’s quite likely that others who are allowed to control you will be looking less and less like Christ, rather than more and more like Him.