The Paper Pulpit
When our daughter, Gail, was around seven or eight she asked if she could have a kitten. Being doting parents, Jessie and I honored her wish and found a beautiful Maltese kitten. Appropriately, since her color was dark gray, we named her “Smoky.” Smoky grew up to become a prolific producer of kittens — too many kittens, in fact. So, we arranged with a veterinarian to have her kitten factory dismantled. Smoky, like all the cats I’ve ever seen, did things her own way.
Have you ever tried to control a cat? If so, it didn’t take long for you to learn there was simply no way to accomplish that feat. Cats love to be in control. They aren’t the least bit hesitant about letting you know, “I’m the boss around here. Your job is to feed me regularly and keep my litter box clean. The sooner you learn that, the better our relationship is going to be.” As you can see, cats have an incorrigible character disorder!
Mentioning Smoky provides a way for me to segue into mentioning that some people I know were apparently born with cat DNA in their makeup — they have a desperate need to be in control. They can’t control everything, but it doesn’t keep them from trying. Why? Because they think the world would come to an end if they weren’t in control of their environment. They push, pull, persuade, finagle, manipulate and withdraw. They have learned that silence and withdrawal (pouting) are great ways to control other people.
What prompts this lifestyle? First, control is a camouflage for fear. Nobody wants to admit that they are afraid. Not me. Not you. Not anybody. Fear makes you feel vulnerable. People take advantage of you when they know you have fear living on the inside of you. So, you hide your fear by going on the offensive.
Second, control is a cover-up for insecurity. Those who are secure have no need to psychologically be always in control. They can defer to others, ask their advice and be totally comfortable when someone else is leading. But people who are dominated by insecurities go overboard by trying to be in control of everything and everyone. They are empty on the inside because they are like a bucket that has a hole in the bottom. They can never get filled up enough, but they keep trying through using control tactics.
Third, control is a cover-up for low self-esteem. It is when people feel down on themselves — worthless, good-for-nothing — that they try to hide from others how they feel. They may even believe that they are guilty of creating the problems causing their low self-esteem. What better way to compensate for this than by trying to dominate and control others? But, in reality, trying to control everything and everyone never fulfills. Rather than solving their basic problem, it only accentuates and perpetuates it. It never pulls other people closer. It only succeeds in pushing them further away.
If you happen to have some cat DNA in your psychological makeup, there is a way to surrender your insatiable need to be in control. You can learn to deal constructively with inner fears, insecurity and low self-esteem. Why not give God the reins in your life? Why not choose to give Him total control? When you choose for God to sit in the driver’s seat rather than in the back seat, you are in the hands of the One who created you, loves you, is infinitely able to provide for every need you have, and will always look out for your best interests. You will be amazed at how much better your relationships with others will be.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us” (I John 4:18-19).
The Rev. D.E. Parkerson is retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Sanford.