Control Freak

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler
2015 26 Jan

Chances are you know someone who is a control freak—a person determined to micromanage every detail of life at home, at work, and at church. Though mothers aren’t the only ones who can fall into the control trap, I think we are more prone to it because of the degree of control we need to exercise when our children are young. Some of us get stuck there, treating grown children as though they are two-year-olds who need to be protected, lest they dart into the path of an oncoming car. Little coincidence, perhaps, that “mother” can be transformed into quite another word simply by adding an s at the beginning.

Of course, some amount of control is necessary to every life. But outsize attempts at control are pathological, rooted more in anxiety than in any kind of lust for power. Being a control freak leads only to frustration and difficulty, because even when our attempts at control are successful, we have probably alienated someone in the process. What’s more, if we have a controlling style of relating to life, we may reach a point of no return, where the habit gets calcified and is nearly impossible to break.

One of my close friends has a mother who typifies this pattern. Suffering from dementia, she is still trying to control everything, though now she does it through a fog of confusion, without the ability to make sound decisions. This makes the family’s efforts to care for her much more difficult.

How do you know if you’re the controlling type? Just watch the way people respond to you, particularly members of your close family. They’ll let you know. If you find that the label control freak does apply, don’t brush it off as though it’s no big deal. It is a big deal. Think, instead, of what you might be missing because your style of responding to life makes it hard for God to care for you. Ask him for the grace to recognize when you are trying to exercise more control than you should. Stop now, before it is too late.

(Image courtesy of Ambrozjo at