Thursday, March 06, 2008

CONTROLLING OTHERS


Aida got me to thinking this morning about our propensity to be caught up in the cycle of exercising control over others and most of the time I think people live unaware of that being what they are actually doing. Or even worse, and this unfortunately is the case for many...believing this is actually helpful to people. This picture popped up in a story on the web this morning and seemed to fit so well. This is a boss using controlling behavior with an employee. I understand why this is the norm in our society in the business world, but it also is a great example of how this way of attempting to move people to do what we want them to do might be beneficial to keep a system running but is not helpful in building healthy, loving relationships.
I don't have much hope in the business world or any of the systems we are surrounded by changing their methods. Conformity through the use of fear, shame and guilt seems to be the accepted norm. But I have great hope for individuals who are being set free through reconciled relationships with Father, being freed from fear and all the ways fear has twisted us. Now these people I can see living free of the dysfunction caused by sin, shame, guilt and fear, and learning to love, serve and sacrifice for others instead of attempting to control and manipulate them to get what we want and what we have determined is "good" for them.

13 comments:

Joel Brueseke said...

Yep, all around me I see "control" in the work place, and it's also not lacking one bit in the church system.

Pastors seem to want to control what their "flock" thinks, says and does, and the weekly sermons are built around keeping people in line through a set of rules, laws, principles, etc, that people "must" live by if they want to stay acceptable to God.

I think some churches do this because they think they're "supposed" to keep the people in line in this way, and I think some do it because they need to feel as if they are in control. Either way, it's a far cry from love and grace.

Aida said...

Kent, this is a topic I've thought about a lot. How does this freedom in Christ that I'm growing in affect how I relate to my students? I work in a public high school and would love to be able to manage my classroom without using control and fear with my students.

A good many of my students come from dysfunctional homes and have a lot of hurt and brokenness in their lives. As a result, they don't always respond to a gentle approach when they want their way so I then have to send them to an administrator in order to get them to settle down.

I would love to be able to use a different approach and sometimes that works but, with the students I've been having lately, it doesn't often work. I've come to the conclusion that sometimes I just have to resort to the law with them because they have no concept of grace. Unfortunately, as with any law, it doesn't correct behavior. It just gives me a greater illusion of control.

As Joel pointed out, the religious system also depends heavily on the use of control to force people into conformity. Maybe if pastors would encourage people to be led by the Holy Spirit rather than a set of rules and laws, that freedom would filter into the workplace also.

Aida

Todd said...

as this is something I've been really thinking about....I couldn't help posting a similar post....

I've been thinking a lot about how this can show itself to be so subtle in our language with those closest to us and visa-versa....

talk soon,

T

Kent said...

Yes Joel, unfortunately the religious system act as if fear based conformity is good for everyone...apparently forgetting that it's Father's kindness that leads us to repentance.

Todd, that is so true.

Aida, there are no easy answers for...How can we change the dynamics of the "go to" model of forced conformity through fear in the larger societial systems? On a large scale we more than likely we can't. But it is so inspiring when you hear stories of a few teachers or administrators changing those dynamics to a large degree and hearing the stories of how it transformed a large segment of the students that were influenced by these teachers who had the ability to help them see that they are valuable...even when they might be screwing up.

Jennifer said...

It seems that when a group of people get together to accomplish something, the thing they are accomplishing becomes more important than the people accomplishing it and power structures have to be in place.

I wonder how we can as a society, move away from that? I don't really see it happening on a large scale, but within the local fellowship at least people can have an example of something different??

There's a Korean movie about a grandmother and her grandson that is such a beautiful picture of how this freedom and love in relationships works. It's called The Way Home. To be honest, when I watched it I felt like giving the grandson a good spanking about 10 minutes into the movie, but I learned a lot from the grandmother...not that I can always (or even half the time!) live that out.

Maybe when I'm her age I'll be like her. :)

Kent said...

Jennifer, I have had to challenge myself to think differently then this that you said:

"It seems that when a group of people get together to accomplish something, the thing they are accomplishing becomes more important than the people accomplishing it and power structures have to be in place."

I came to realize that if I remained in a place of thinking along these lines I couldn't even imagine any other possibility. I have said before that I don't see societies, in all their forms, moving past being stuck in this cycle that has a way of warping all relationships. But I do believe we can as individuals move beyond it as we are being transformed by the grace of God. And as we as individuals begin to live from that place of grace we will see the absoulte inability of law to break this cycle humanity is stuck in.

Kent said...

After reading my last statement in my last comment I wanted to change it a bit. I wanted to add something to the end of it:

And as we as individuals begin to live from that place of grace we will see the absoulte inability of law to break this cycle humanity is stuck in...whether it be the larger community or more importantly whether it be our children, our spouses, our friends and even our enemies.

Romans 5:20-21 (The Message)

20-21 All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn't, and doesn't, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it's sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that's the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.

Jennifer said...

I agree with you Kent, I was observing reality as it is without expounding on it.

I agree completely with what you said. I think what I was getting at (sometimes it helps to go back and re-read to clarify), is that it take individual transformation before there can be group transformation.

I can't remember who it was out of the founding fathers or our nation (and I'm not a super patriot, just using the terms) but one of them made the point that our government, as outlined in the Constitution, would only work with Christians.

I know there had never been a time when Christianity got everything right, but I think what he was getting at is that the basics of appreciation for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have to first be in the mindset of a people before they can achieve self government.

My point in saying what I said about power structures was that when people lose sight of what is really important (liberty), they become consumed by the "project" instead of working together as free individuals who are contributing to the community with their own strengths and gifts.

Are we saying the same thing?

Kent said...

Jennifer, it seems to me that it is within the individual that real freedom is possible, regardless of what situation he/she finds themselves in. It really does seem to be the only freedom there is. The collective freedom seems to be something that will remain out of our grasp until all things a set right. Can we taste and experience some of that now...certainly we can, but as long as individuals are bound up they are left scrambling and the scrambling creates more mess and the growing mess seems to lead those who are bound up, into more maddening attampts to control their circustances and people.

So, even being surrounded by others that want to control and manipulate through fear, there is a freedom to be found and lived out.

Jennifer said...

I agree. :)
That's sort of where I am with church right now. Since we live so far out, it is really our only option for fellowship of any kind right now, except for our neighbors who either don't have children or only have one. We overwhelm people with 7 of us so we don't get invited out to dinner or things like that very often.

I am finding that it works to be part of this group of people just as I am and just as my kids are even though it is within the structure of a traditional church setting. It's been freeing, but that freedom is something it seems I have to guard a bit. Not in a militant sense, but to be aware of how easily it can be undermined by my own insecurity.

That movie I mentioned shows all of this so beautifully when an elderly grandmother is left with her grandson who treats her horribly, but she respond with nothing but love and care. It's really powerful and it reminds me of what we're talking about. The grandson is transformed by her love at the end.

Kent said...

I had a conversation with a client today about our roles as parents. He has young children and mine are all teenagers now. The conversation ended up being about grace verse the enforcement of principles (and as he said, through the use of fear, shame and guilt.) He sees so clearly that he can manipulate his daughter with these things to get her to say she is sorry but he knows that it isn't sincere. So often people who are familiar with the Gospels and the rest of the NT have an understanding of grace that always leaves them with a, but.....

He said to me that he knows that so much of it seems to be because grace will be trampled on by people. I think it is even deeper than that. I think it is that we really don't trust grace. We put more trust in enforcement through fear over the grace of God.

When he said that people would just trample on this grace and take advantage of it I said to him, "Sure they will,and sometimes you and I do also, but that hasn't caused Father to withdraw it and give up on us."

Grace is the only thing that has been given that has the ability to transform hearts. I'M NOT WORKING FOR CONFORMITY OUT OF MY DAUGHTERS...I want them to be transformed and set free.

Now to learn to extend that towards everyone I come in contact with.

Joel Brueseke said...

When he said that people would just trample on this grace and take advantage of it I said to him, "Sure they will,and sometimes you and I do also, but that hasn't caused Father to withdraw it and give up on us."

Man, that says a lot right there. Great stuff!

Jennifer said...

I think it is that we really don't trust grace.

Oh yes..this is my biggest obstacle right now. I know it in my head, but it isn't an integral part of my being yet.

I love what I'm hearing you say and so glad you say it.