when control doesn’t feel like control but still is control

"Control Yourselves" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Control Yourselves” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

[Like this cartoon? Buy a high-quality print for just $19 HERE!]
I was at a conference once where a leader was there with many members of his community. I watched with fascination as he and his people claimed that he was the least controlling leader they’d ever known. But their love, devotion, and even adoration of him was so powerful that he could use his feelings to completely control their behavior.

For example, to prevent the possibility of ever hurting his feelings, they would never even think of disagreeing with him or challenging any of the things he thought, said, or did.

Control doesn’t always appear like a dictator. It can also appear like a lover…

… a lover who feels its his right to never have his feelings hurt or to experience disappointment.

This is not to say leaders who are liked and even loved have control issues. As long as they are humble and open, and as long as there are people around them that can speak honestly into their lives without fear of retaliation.

Many of us at The Lasting Supper have experienced this and so we talk about it around our online table. Join us!


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12 Responses

  1. Adam Julians says:

    Excellent point.

    As I read this my thought went to how Eve was tempted, the fruit being nutritious and desirable for gaining of knowledge, to be like God. The words “you’re worth it” and “I deserve it” come to mind. Though isn’t it the case that it is the congregation enabling a leader to be like that as much as the leader appearing to be loving but being controlling?

    I know I have fallen foul of this. Being told I was lazy growing up when I was showing symptoms of undiagnosed dyslexia lended itself to carrying false guilt. When being called a “sinner” this guilt was affirmed. Thankfully I no longer see myself as a sinner in my identity but as one who has a mix of good and bad like anyone else. So I suppose I have thought I have been loving when actually I have been controlling at times too by encouraged to be that way with social influences that can be hard to shake off.

    But what beauty and joy there is to be had in letting real love in and loving authentically!

  2. Bernardo says:

    In other words, brainwashed in the mythical and embellished words of one long dead Jewish guy.

  3. I’ve probably said this before Bernardo, but you’re behaving like a troll. This is your very last warning and I’m going to blacklist you. Go harass other spiritually-interested sites. Scratch that! Just stop altogether and create your own site full of references, quotes, and links to other people who think for themselves. You have a corrosive agenda and I’m tired of it. Be a person and stay or go be a bot and go somewhere else.

  4. Oh… and another thing… as an explanation: I like forming relationships with people who are journeying, processing, and growing into their own spiritual independence. As you can probably tell, much to your frustration, I’m not trying to turn everyone into a person like you, like you are constantly trying to convince us of. You need to find a forum where people debate in order to try to change people’s minds into theirs. I value and validate the individual and unique journey of each person and provide spaces for them to explore this in. You’re a brainwasher, and a poor one at that. And that’s not what this site’s about. So… let the real Bernardo come out, if there is one, or scram!

  5. Jaz says:

    I think it’s important to note that many if not most of these guys don’t set out to be this way. Nor do they hold some ulterior manipulative agenda. They truly believe they are God’s megaphone. Their sheep agree. My pastor was like this. I remember realizing one day that I agreed with everything he said and thinking how Godly that was. Years later of course I also realized and repeated to many fellow sheep, “If you agree with everything your pastor says then you don’t have a mind of your own.” I understand the lure. It can be very relieving to have someone think and make decisions for you. Having a guru with all the answers is comforting. In other words, “God speaks through pastor. Pastor tells me how I should live my life because listening to pastor means listening to God. Therefore, I can’t get it wrong and I don’t have think for myself. Ahhh.”

  6. Adam Julians says:

    Bernardo, I just think you are continuing to be silly in professing to have wisdom to impart and continuing down this path of rhetoric about a “myth” and logical fallacy of argument from authority.

    Again an argument that “Bernardo is a myth” is as valid as previously reasoned and clear.

    We can have silly conversations all day but what’s the point in that?

    I think it’s a shame as we could have some great conversations. Therefore this is where I am putting a stop to conversing with you unless your approach changes to one of respect for those who differ in their views to you and your comments show critical engagement.

    Nevertheless I wish you well.

  7. Gary says:

    Just be done with it and ban him already.

  8. Adam Julians says:

    “Be done with it” – well put Gary.

  9. Tom Wilson says:

    I think there are multiple reasons that supposed Spiritual Leaders do this. One of the main ones is though few will admit it even to themselves is that they believe their income is dependent upon. They realize if people begin to hear Source for themselves and use their own minds many possibly most won’t feel they need them. The only thing IMO that most have to keep people in the pews is fear and shame. People seem to be willing to pay good money to someone who makes them feel like they need them for their very survival. However, in contrast those who are in it purely for selfless reasons of serving those in need more often than not struggel to to lack of financial support.

  10. i agree with your analysis tom. a catch-22.

  11. Adam Julians says:


    I had a little think about what you talked of with people being in pews through “fear and shame” and “paying good money” because they feel they need a controlling leader for survival but with others who are in it for selfless reasons struggling through lack of financial support.

    In the Vineyard I was in there was an expectation to “tithe”, to give 10% of one’s income to the church using a passage from Malachi to support teaching about it. I thought of it as tenuous at best but then I considered the imperative to be obedient to leaders (Hebrews 13 I think). So I did give but then on reflection I see that as having been done under compulsion not cheerfully which scripture also talks about. So I would conclude that there were control issues there that I was taking part in.

    Ideally those “selfless” would be supported but then that requires the same selflessness of a congregation in financial giving. It is therefore interesting to me to debate such issues including tithing.

    I remember the saying that it is no fool that gives what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.

    I hope there are more leaders that are selfless then controlling and more congregants that are serving rather than enabling to control otherwise the church is doing more harm than good.

    Whatever the reality with money, there are some treasures that are of more worth than financial gain?