How do you stop being a “control freak” who wants everything to be perfect? First, be kind to yourself. You’re trying to control people because you love them and want the best for them—and that’s good! There’s nothing wrong with wanting the best for your partner, family, friends and coworkers.
There is, however, something wrong with thinking you know what’s best for everyone. There’s something unhealthy about seeking perfection in your relationships, family, work and life. There’s something destructive about manipulating situations and controlling people so they do what’s “right.” If you have controlling parents, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
These tips on how to stop trying to control people will help you accept people—and yourself—for who you are. You’ll gain insight into your life, your self, your relationships and God. You’ll see how you’re part of a bigger, more important story…and this has the power to change everything.
My first tip is to be gentle with yourself. You’re trying to control people, situations, and the future because you care. You want good things for your partner, family, friends, coworkers and the world. You think you know what’s best for everyone. Your heart is in the right place, but you’re not using your head.
Here’s a comment from a She Blossoms reader that illustrates what I mean:
“I feel so insecure and I get scared that he doesn’t want to be with me anymore,” says Hilary on How to Stop Being a Controlling Girlfriend. “So I try to control him even though I know controlling girlfriends aren’t fun or good for a relationship. Sometimes I’m rude, or just depressed and crying. That makes my boyfriend uncomfortable. He feels bad and tries to make me happy but we just have a horrible time. It’s messed up and I feel bad but I don’t know how to stop trying to control my boyfriend.”
Hilary’s heart is in the right place: she wants a good relationship with her boyfriend. But instead of using her head, she’s allowing her anxiety, fear, and insecurity to control her behavior. She says she wants to stop trying to control her partner, but her emotions are controlling her.
Here’s my second tip for control freaks: pay attention to the emotions that drive you. Your feelings—and how you think about and respond to them—contain the keys to acceptance, freedom, and joy.
How to Stop Trying to Control People
I bet you never thought you’d read an article for control freaks that focuses on Moses, Pharoah, and the enslaved Hebrews in Egypt! And yet here we are.
This blog post is part of my She Blossoms Through the Bible project; I’m writing an article for every chapter in every book of Scripture. Most of my articles about Exodus revolved around trusting God when you’re scared—but this one is slightly different. This one is about giving up control when you think you know what’s best for everyone.
1. Admit that you don’t know what’s best
“Then the Lord said to Moses…” is the beginning of verses 1, 8, 13, and 22 in Exodus 9. God proceeded to tell Moses to take handfuls of furnace soot and throw it toward heaven while Pharoah was watching (v. 8). God told Moses to stretch his staff before heaven and wait for the lightning, thunder, and hail on the land of Egypt (v. 23). God told Moses to spread out his hands to Him and wait for the thunder to cease (v. 29). Moses did all of those things in front of Pharoah, and all the people of Egypt were affected. Do you think Moses thought that was best for the Hebrews, the Egyptians, and his own future? Nope. Did Moses trust and accept what God said was best? Yup. It was freaky, but it worked.
What makes you think you know what’s best for everyone? You’re trying to control people because you think you know how life should be. You’re allowing insecurity, fear, anxiety and pride to control your emotions and actions. You’re trying to control people, situations, and outcomes because you need to feel secure and comfortable. This is normal; of course you want to feel safe in this unpredictable, dangerous world! You want your loved ones to be safe, too. But you don’t really know what’s best for everyone. God isn’t asking you to through handfuls of furnace soot toward heaven in front of the Pharoah….He’s simply asking you to admit that you don’t know what’s best for yourself, your loved ones, or the world. Be humble enough to admit that you don’t know better than God.
2. Be humble, yet active
Exodus 9:29 tells us that Moses spread out his hands to the Lord; only then did the thunder, hail and lightning cease. That’s not the only example of Moses’ humility and boldness even though he was scared and struggling to trust God; all 10 plagues required Moses to participate in something the Lord commanded. God didn’t have to teach Moses how to stop trying to control people. On the contrary, God had to nudge Moses into bold action based on faith. Moses started off being humble and scared; God grew him into boldness and fearless faith.
How can you become both humble and active? This is a key tip on how to stop being a control freak: learn how to participate in people’s lives without expectations, rules, plans, or goals. Moses was awesomely faithful because he was scared and yet he listened to God and humbly followed His instructions. Moses was both humble and active. God required him to participate and yet trust. If you truly want to learn how to stop trying to control people, you need to balance humility with action. Trust that God really does know what’s best—and participate in the lives and situations He places before you.
3. Release control of the results
Did Moses know for sure what would happen when he threw handfuls of furnace soot toward the heavens, lifted his staff, and spread out his hands? Nope. But he did what God asked anyway. God was responsible for the outcome of Moses’ actions, for the hardening of Pharoah’s heart, and for the fate of the Hebrews in Egypt. Moses did what God asked and released control of the results. That’s what walking in faith means…and it’s also an excellent example of not being a control freak. Walking in faith, with a childlike curiosity and willingness to participate in God’s plans, brings freedom, peace, and joy.
What results do you need to release? You are not responsible for the outcome of your efforts—whether you’re raising a child, applying to college, performing surgery, or caring for a husband with cancer. You can’t control how people respond to you, your words, or your attempts to change the world. You can’t manipulate relationships and events, and you can’t create a perfect life. If God doesn’t magically create perfect relationships and lives, then how can you? If Jesus’ presence on earth didn’t automatically save everyone He encountered, then how can you create the results you hope for? You can’t. Learning how to stop trying to control people means following in Jesus’ footsteps.
Talk to God about what this means in your own life and relationships. If you love Jesus, you know he wasn’t a control freak and you want to be more like Him. What does this mean to you? Ask the Holy Spirit for counsel, guidance, wisdom and words. Invite Jesus to reveal Himself to you, to guide you in truth, light, and love.
Give yourself time, patience, gentleness and love. Learning how to stop trying to control people isn’t an overnight healing or quick fix. Rather, it’s a lifetime of learning how to humbly participate with God in His work…and let go of the results.
What do you think about my tips for control freaks? 🙂 Your comments — big and little — are welcome below!
With His love,
P.S. Are you struggling to make a decision or find the right path in your life? Read an Easy Way to Stop Overthinking God’s Will for Your Life.