Updated: Jun 17, 2019
Have you ever noticed how people who exercise control over others end up losing control?
If not, try taking a second look. Or a third or fourth. Keep watching. It will end up happening sooner or later. People who like to be in control will always lose control.
I was reminded of this earlier today as I read a wonderful blog post by Dr. Beth Allison Barr, as published in the evangelical pages of www.patheos.com. Therein Dr. Barr speaks truth to power in relation to today’s Southern Baptist Convention. Feel free to break in here and take a read of this amazingly powerful message: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/anxiousbench/2019/06/because-complementarianism-is-about-power-it-isnt-about-jesus/
The ground is shaking beneath several large denominations of today’s institutional Christian Church. There may have been a time, say, when Southern Baptists were pointing fingers at Roman Catholics and their sexual abuse by pastors scandal. But today there are three more fingers pointing backward when that happens.
My own ear to the ground response is this: control is in the process of losing. And influence will take its place on the winner’s platform.
What am I hearing that would possess me to say such a thing?
Thanks for asking. Here’s what I mean. Over the decades as a Clinical Social Worker and later Parish Clergy worker, I’ve listened to hundreds of individuals, couples, families and other groups where controlling behaviors became a presenting problem. Such behaviors were no longer working. They were losing ground. Anxiety and depression were setting in. Something had to change. And it could only be a change of mind on the part of the participants at hand. A change from taking control over some feared object (person, place, or thing) to giving influence with that same loved object instead.
Learning to let go of fear and hold on to love.
You see, all controlling behaviors in this life are motivated by the same thing: fear.
Where we as men are concerned, this fear may be that of losing status, power, machismo, etc. Fear is at the root of all patriarchy in society, no matter which social institution is involved. Fear is the body’s way of demanding that the mind decide some way to exercise control over the feared “other,” which in reference to Dr. Barr's posting involved women leaders in the 21st century SBC. And when the mind’s reaction is to comfort the body’s fears by taking control over others, others listening in and then having a look will find the ground shaking and quaking all around. Not right away, perhaps, but in due time.
Controlling behaviors in any adult to adult interaction will always signal fear leading into outright anxiety. I like to define anxiety as being our human “faith in fear.” Consciously, we may deny our fear. Why? Because we are afraid of being afraid. Men especially! And the more we fear our fear, the more we place our faith in fear and in our need to take control over whatever “other” we are most afraid of, typically some loss of power. From this position of “faith in fear” we move as if from family room to den, and we experience “doubt in love.” I like to define depression in this way. It’s why depression and anxiety are hand in glove. Doubt in love surrounds our faith in fear.
The more doubt we have in love’s power over fear, the more influence we lose in our relationships. The more we lose this influence, the more we lose our relationships. And in the end we feel like the losers we always feared we would become. We’ve just completed a vicious circle in which our fears became our self-fulfilling prophecy. Our fearful control crashes and burns. We are left with nothing until someone comes to love us and offer us a hand up. Up to where we can experience loving "influence with" rather than our old, failed, "control over." Loving influence with then becomes our new normal, our new self, our new self-fulfilling prophecy. Which is why and how love wins.
It takes a change of mind to move from fear to love. As those in successful recovery through a 12-step program for addiction might testify, we don’t change our mind from fear to love until our faith in fear and doubt in love first happens. And that will happen. We will eventually hit bottom. Then in losing our old failed power we may gain our new successful Higher Power. Our faith in fear gives way to our inevitable doubt in fear as the harmful consequence of loss happens, and we are free to then experience faith in love.
That’s when we discover the power of our loving influence with others in relationship.
The ground is now shaking and quaking. Old controls, in the Southern Baptist Church and elsewhere, are being lost. Voices of new influence are being heard speaking truth to power. And love is going to win.
Can you hear and see it happening today?