the ONE question you can ask yourself to determine if you’re being controlled

"Words of Control" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
“Words of Control” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

(Do you like this cartoon with symbols of control coming out of his mouth? You can buy it HERE.)

Here’s the catch: I would dare say most controlled people don’t know they’re being controlled. The control is so thorough, so deceptive, that they wouldn’t dream of diagnosing themselves as controlled by another person.

I know. I’ve been there! In fact, I enjoyed my controlled state. Until I realized I was not free.

Now, in hindsight, after we’ve been liberated or liberated ourselves, we can definitely see how we were controlled. But when we’re in the middle of it, when we’ve volitionally entered into this controlling relationship, and when we’re enjoying the benefits of it, it’s almost impossible to detect.

Some control is domineering and abusive, and they’ll use bullying speech and actions to control you. But… some control is subtle and sweet, where they’ll use their hurt feelings and appeals to loyalty to control you.

I’ve seen it all!

So… I’ve come up with the one question you can ask yourself to determine whether or not you’re being controlled. It will work in an overtly abusive relationship or in a subtle one. Here it is:

If I express my differing opinion, will it detrimentally affect my standing?

I’m talking about having, embracing, and expressing your own mind. Controlling your own mind.

I’m talking about how doing this will affect your relationship to the leader and the community.

I’m also talking about long term. Almost no one likes to be disagreed with. It can take time to accustom ourselves to dissent. Things could be rough for a short while. Just like in a marriage. Disagreement is never nice. But it doesn’t change the relationship long term. Just short term. In fact, it can improve it!

Some reactions can be furious. Some reactions can be tearful. And if these are used to manipulate you into recanting, this too is control.

If you say right away, “Why would I disagree with the leader? I agree with everything he/she says!” then I would suggest we may have a problem. It’s like the many married couples I’ve known who insist they’ve never had a disagreement only to end up divorced because it’s just not possible for two people to always agree. Someone is being silent or silenced, consciously or unconsciously.

I’ve tried this question on my past relationships. Yes! I can definitely say I was being controlled. Even willingly! I saw how I was not living free and responsibly with my own mind. But I was okay with it. I wish I knew to ask this question then. It would have opened my eyes to the domination I was under. Maybe.

Are you being controlled? Ask yourself this question: “If I express my differing opinion, will it detrimentally affect my standing?”

We talk about this a lot at The Lasting Supper. Please join us!


36 Replies to “the ONE question you can ask yourself to determine if you’re being controlled”

  1. Thanks Gary! Some people commented lately that they noticed I wasn’t writing as much. When I went on vacation, I thought I would give just posting cartoons a try. Apparently some people like what I have to say as well as what I have to draw. So… thanks again!

  2. I agree Gary. Great post David. Well written. The way you extended the suspense…….
    You had me rushing through to find out what the question is.
    And then when I read it ….. BINGO!!!! ….. You are right on the money!
    I’m looking back at those relationships (church and family actually) where I felt uncomfortable but couldn’t quite put my finger on the issue – and now it’s so clear.
    Thanks so much David. You’re a genius! :
    Great cartoon too.

  3. !!Spewing heavy metal shards of entrapment and pain!! It hurts to admit I have been this way at times throughout our 17 year marriage. My husband stood his ground, and laid healthy limits, and over time, the marriage worked through it and we both grew. Thank you for reminding us that we have a choice to take it or leave it NP

  4. Roman Catholic Church….you cannot think for yourselves. Left 30+ years ago, but it is hard to get “RCC” out of me. Finally found a couple of books directed at the RCC that have really helped

  5. You already know I’m documenting the process of converting to Judaism, David, but I’m very much in the same boat as Dorothy – still having to deal with the RCC having an influence on my thinking. What books were those, Dorothy?

  6. This is a really good post, David. That question brings such clarity. And wow, how often do we unconsciously allow ourselves to be controlled by others, and how often to others control us out of their own fear without even realizing they are doing it!

  7. Jordan, the books are “Recovering Catholics What to do when religion comes between you and God” by Earnie Larsen(a former priest, but stayed in the church) and “The Recovering Catholic, personal journeys of women who left the church(for women BUT it has a lot of things that men can relate to as far as negative religious experiences, cruel theology which dovetails back to Earnie’s book. These are older books and are inexpensive on Abebooks and/or Amazon(used).

  8. What you wrote is poignant. I know this is cartoon is about control but, after reading terri jo’s reply, I had to ask myself, “When I’m lashing out in anger, do my words come across like how your cartoon depicts it?” A lot to think about. I disagree with the commenter on Facebook. Your cartoon and writing do not look like native advertising, unless he is referring to your invitation to join the Lasting Supper. But that is there with every post. The way I see it, it’s like someone inviting another person to
    may view that as a ‘bait and switch’ tactic. Great post!

  9. Ok, my complete reply didn’t go through. Weird. I was saying that your invitation to the Lasting Supper is like someone inviting me to their church. However, if I clicked on your link, and all I saw was a sales pitch for the Lasting Supper, then I may view that as a ‘bait and switch’.

  10. It seems nowadays the reverse happens, at least as often: you express an orthodox opinion and your standing is affected.

  11. Brigitte: I agree. For example, when I expressed a different Biblical understanding in private to a pastor of a Vineyard Church, he stopped cold… thought for a moment… and then replied, “Wow, you sure know your Bible.”

    The issue to that pastor was not the various ways of interpreting the Bible, but rather, who had the final word (an issue of power and control).

  12. David this is excellent, and a VERY helpful question – I agree. Sometimes we do choose this – for all sorts of reasons. Choosing to stop it is painful, takes courage, and is ultimately empowering (but it can be a long journey).

    One point though that I don’t entirely agree with: you commented ” i think no matter what situation we are in, we still have a measure of choice” – this needs some nuance. I am particularly referring to childhood abuse, and also extreme domestic violence. Sometimes (often?) there is no choice available in these situations. To make such a black and white statement can make people who have survived these situations feel it’s their fault.

    Keep up the good work!

    Kind regards, Kristin

  13. Caryn and others, who seem to have been in Vineyard church. What is it or was it? From what I read way back when it had something to do with a Toronto revival with holy laughter and such. It seemed frightfully outlandish at the time. I may have it mixed up.

    Presently, I have a Pentecostal in my life who is trying to convince me that Christ will return in the very land of Israel and that we must support the state of Israel. I have always supported the state of Israel from a very far distance and no active involvement, theoretically, I guess one can say. I am not sure what the Pentecostal’s issue is. But for some reason, in her opinion, I am very far from the truth in some regard. I can’t quite make it out. I think basically it must be on the millennium, since Lutherans are a-millennial and stay out of that whole fray.

  14. Don’t be disheartened, Brigitte. Your torch is burning brightly for Christ’s teachings and your kindness for others is evident. It is no matter what the pentecostal lady has an issue with. Keep shining brightly xo

  15. Hi Brigitte: my take on the Vineyard’s doctrinal history is this:

    Draw a line from left to right. Mark Pentecostal (experiential) on the left, and then Baptist (intellectual) on the right.

    In the late 1960’s, a church emerged as a point between Baptist and Pentecostal, named Calvary Chapel (Costa Mesa CA). This was headed by Chuck Smith. It was incredibly successful in reaching out to the ‘hippy’ community. They marched through the Bible… literally… chapter by chapter, year after year.

    As the Calvary Chapel movement drifted away from the more ‘showy’ experience of the Holy Spirit, a gap remained for those that wished to ‘experience’ the Holy Spirit and still have strong biblical teaching.

    Vineyard therefore emerged, imo, at a point between Pentecostal and the 1960’s, early 1970’s Calvary Chapel.

    Lonnie Frisbee was a key player in both early movements – the Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard.

    Vineyard was (and is) primarily a community that wishes to ‘experience’ the presence of God/Holy Spirit. They see the “Kingdom of God” as a beachhead on the shores of earth (so, it is here and now, yet not in all its fullness). Entire congregations joined the Vineyard Movement… so, it became a blend of Nazarene, Pentecostal, you-name-it…. and then continued to settle into its own doctrine.

    The Vineyard I attended was not for, nor against, ‘holy laughter’ or even ‘dog barking’. However, they requested such ‘gifts’ to not be practiced in public meetings. They did allow a quiet time during music worship for attendees to pray out loud, and/or to speak an encouraging 30 second message (they called these messages ‘prophecy’ or ‘a word’).

    Vineyard and Calvary have many ‘founding pastors’ entering retirement. Many were highly charismatic (meaning attractive) individuals. Boards are now hiring pastors. Thus, the real power is shifting from the pastors to the boards.

    Calvary Chapel had an immense impact upon Christian music, creating ‘soft rock’ as acceptable for church worship. However, I would offer that as the impact of Calvary on music faded, it was the Vineyard that went on to heavily influence ‘contemporary worship’ music.

    Calvary Chapel was a ‘messy’ church… that is, it invited anyone and everyone to attend…. and they had a policy of allowing God to change the hearts of drug users, hippies, co-habituating couples, etc. [It is no longer a ‘messy church’… but much more Baptist in insisting that if you attend, you should change your outward person.] Vineyard also moved into the gap of being a ‘messy church’.

    So, Vineyard was a movement of churches filled with charismatic founding pastors. Vineyard had, and still has, some impressive music. Vineyard is settling into its doctrine, while retaining the thrust of ‘experiencing god/holy spirit’. Vineyard will most likely continue to experience power struggles, as the (now denomination) settles into Boards hiring pastors (rather than using the Founding Pastor approach). Vineyard may continue to be a ‘messy church’ (open and extremely patient)… or may be drifting more towards setting standards and enforcing them.

    That’s my opinion, of course. You can read their own version of their history on the Internet.

  16. I don’t understand “messy”. The church service is public. Anyone can attend. But the communion is reserved for the confirmed and those under pastoral supervision, in that sense. Having a pastor does not mean that you are perfect, it means that you are trying to live an outwardly honorable life, with whatever a failings and foibles along the way, allowing an opening for correction and change where needed. So generally, most of the time, we would not commune except in our own congregations where we know we have pastoral care (from the pastor and our fellow-members). But otherwise churches are not closed to anyone. And most organized churches are still pretty messy seeing with all the sinners in it with their various opinions and struggles.

    I suppose all of what I wrote goes somehow in the face of what is “holiness” kinds of churches. “If you really were converted you’d this and that”. I have been told that. I have been told by Reformed people, for whom I was translating from the German, that I was not properly… what was it… regenerated. They told me that I saw baptism as a work, even though I told them that I did not see it that way at all. And so if you point to your baptism it means you are a works-monger. Yea right. There is something.

  17. You are kind terry-jo. We only live an 8 hour car ride apart. We are practically neighbors on the internet.

  18. Been there done that and have the scars and have gained wisdom, compassion and the occasional twitch to show for it!

  19. Not being from ANY Christian denomination, I am STILL truly grateful for that ‘question’. It’s one of those ‘bedrock questions of life’.

    Many thanks.

  20. Like my church’s name: “Unity in Action” is demonstrated here in our reflective thoughts and the willingness to share them. Like the movement in an ocean’s tide: patterns always are in flux. And for that, I thank the Divine Light within us. The pearl of a great price is embedded in each of us. It is as simple as expressing that pearl that we deepen our wisdom and evolution.

  21. Hi Brigitte. Thank you for sharing about the Lutheran approach. I am afraid that I know very little about the ‘Holiness’ types of churches or the Reformed Church.

    “Messy” is most often taken to mean the following:

    Anyone can attend. Anyone can take communion.

    The focus in on the inward person changing; there is great patience on the outward person changing.

    Correction will come, in time, from the Holy Spirit. Unless you are disruptive, selling drugs in the parking lot, an abuser/sex offender committing crimes, or other extremes, the church leaders will trust the Spirit to speak to you in His timing…. which may be years… or never.

    Thus, for example, as an open transsexual, I was allowed to attend a Vineyard with my wife, to take communion, and to sing in the choir. We also attended some ‘small bible study groups’. A few times the pastor met with me in private, and asked if I was somehow, in someway, moving back towards an inner male identity.

    [I told him ‘no’, I had no such desire at all…. and we might discuss the scriptures concerning the Garden Image, moving towards that Image, the Fall of Mankind, what ‘sins from the Fall of Mankind’ cannot be reversed, what is the role of choice, what is the role of peace, should ‘Samaritans’ culturally become ‘Jews’, certified mental disorders, and on and on.]

    My sexual orientation is bisexual. That is, I am attracted to some men and some women. It is just a chemical thing. Not much different than other sexual orientations.

    However, that particular pastor believed (with all his heart) that all persons with ‘bisexual orientation’ were automatically promiscuous. After a time, he met with me privately to discuss my (assumed) promiscuity…. and I laughed and laughed. I thought it was hysterical. I had so seldom encountered a learned man that believed a folk tale.

    But again, that speaks well of that Vineyard in trying to become a ‘messy’ church. In their minds, I was quite a wild child…..

  22. Aha. Caryn. I don’t know what to add to that. I am pretty conservative in view, though very accepting of people in general. There I will always have a tension for myself, personally speaking. I am not a pastor, and I don’t counsel people. I have studied religion, doctrine, Bible, world religions, church history, and like to keep reading and discussing. But I have run into (whatever the current collective term is for various sexual practices and orientations) only on the internet, which is not the same thing, and in acquaintances about three times. Those acquaintances I have met at weddings and other parties. The closest I coming to know about it is from statistics and from TV shows, and reading about Jenner and looking at the picture on the cover standing at the Walmart check-out. When he (now she) says that … she has the mind of a woman, I can only say that … she, does not know what she is talking about. That much I venture and agree with Germaine Greer. Speaking as a woman, myself. I have yet to meet a man who knows the mind of a woman. Seriously. It is not possible. And maybe vice versa. You yourself explained some things about the male mind to me, not long ago. Some will say there is not such thing and male and female brain, still there appears to be that. Bisexuality is very common and so I tend to view it as a choice, since people go both ways. And since you have experienced more than one that makes you something other than going into marriage as a virgin and being monogamous. I can be attracted to men and women in different ways, too, but don’t pursue it. I would not call myself anything except married. One could even say that women look over women much more than they do men. So much. We are drifting from what a “messy” church is and what it means to express a different opinion. Perhaps, I have come to your messy inter-net “church” and expressed a different opinion… Don’t be mad. Did you see Robert Fulford’s article, today.

  23. Don’t take “you” and you personally, when I write, at times, because I am in my mind thinking of the “impersonal” use, as in “people”. It comes to me from the German where it is used continuously. “Man” (not Mann, that would be a man) means everybody, or you, simply the impersonal use.

  24. Brigitte: I am not mad at all. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    I personally think that transsexuals have their own ‘mind’, so to speak. Especially those that transitioned during mid-life, as I did. So, I do not claim to have the mind of a woman, but rather, a unique mind that is blended between the man/woman continuum. I sometimes joke that I am now 75/25 mix of female/male.

    My wife has often told me that my personality is the same since she knew me 40 years ago… and just my gender identity shifted. Oh, and that I look nicer now… lol.

    Your op-ed article on the LGBT in Canada was interesting… in 1967 consenting same-sex acts were legalized. Nice. I also find that in 1999, “Most legal benefits commonly associated with marriage had been extended to cohabiting same-sex couples ” in Canada [Wikipedia]

    And so, it does make sense that Canada had a more gentle and less organized LGBT movement towards legalizing same-sex marriage in 2005.

    In the US, same-sex marriages never had all the same benefits as opposite-sex marriages. Bonnie and I left the state of Virginia in 2012 and moved to Maryland, very much due to Virginia notifying us that our many years of marriage would be considered as nothing if I died – the state would deny federal ‘Social Security’ survivor benefits to Bonnie.

    These survivor benefits are what Bonnie would live upon if I died … I out-earn her 5 to 1.

    We appeared to be a ‘same sex marriage’ and the outward appearance, to Virginia’s government, greatly mattered. So, I kept ‘Male’ on my VA driver’s license and Federal Passport… just to keep the legal odds in my favor.

    We moved to Maryland in 2012 – a state that would honor our marriage, and will not persecute nor prosecute same-sex marriages . Thus, Bonnie was in a safer position.

    So, I am still thrilled with our Supreme Court ruling that honors same-sex marriage and opposite-sex marriage as equal in all Federal and State rights.

    And… you are right… we have drifted far from discussing ‘messy’ churches… lol.

  25. That illustration is exactly like the ministurds that were preachers in the fundamentalist cult I grew up in. To this very day, splinter break-off leaders do this kind of stuff to their members and they sit there and take it. Its all a test by their god to see if they are worthy.

  26. And here’s another: What happens when you work toward meeting your own needs and spend less time and energy meeting the needs of leadership?
    For me, there was pouting, silence, and ultimately mistrust and accusation. Accusations started as embellishments, and grew up to be lies having no root in any true thing. It was painful, but I’m out, so that’s good 

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