“In their zeal for producing godly offspring, many well-meaning parents insert themselves in their adult children’s lives in ways that are deeply inappropriate and hinder them from growth and maturity. Addressing the effects of this does not mean they are inherently bad parents or that we aren’t loving or loved. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Healing from over-control and surrendering to the transformation of the Holy Spirit in our lives is crucial to our growth —because it is when we walk in the Spirit that we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Our parents (or pastors, husband, and friends for that matter) cannot walk in the Spirit for us.” —The Over-Controlled Adult Child
In this perverse world, it's important for kids to understand their personal boundaries. "It's not okay for someone else to touch you there," a parent might say. Teaching a child how to keep her body safe involves understanding what is off-limits to others. "This part belongs to just you," she learns. "It's private and no one else is allowed to look at you there. If someone asks or tries to touch you, you scream as loud as you can and run away."
Owning and protecting those private places are essential to being human. Violations are horrific, often causing lifelong pain, injury, and trauma to the body and the heart—as well as legal repercussions for offenders. But we have other areas that need owning and protecting, too. Other parts of us just as private and personal and off-limits to anyone else. We can choose, at appropriate times and for legitimate reasons, to allow ourselves to be influenced or touched by safe people, but self-control is important enough to God to be included in Scripture along with love, faith, and other qualities of the Fruit of the Spirit. Therefore it should be important to us.
As young children, we learn healthy responsibility for ourselves from parents if they model for us appropriate self-control. Over-control, or when those in our lives take over the areas God gives us as our responsibility (or when we do this to others) is serious, especially as we grow into adulthood. Norm Wakefield illustrates from a spiritual perspective why this is dangerous:
Until Marty has a relationship with Jesus, his parents must teach, train, and demand honor and obedience (Eph. 6:1-4). However, once the Holy Spirit indwells him, Marty should be taught to walk by the Spirit in relationship with the heavenly Father. As Jesus told his disciples, "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven" (Matt. 23:9). As a son starts to walk by the Spirit, an earthly father should encourage his son's decision-making and guidance to come from a personal relationship with the heavenly Father, not himself. To the degree that the father makes the decisions and dictates the lifestyle of his believing son, to that degree he hinders his son's spiritual life. A father's role should decrease just as John the Baptist's role decreased when Jesus appeared (John 3:30). —The Curse of the Standard Bearers
As His creation, we belong to God and yet He gives us stewardship over our own hearts, our bodies, our souls and our minds. These things belong to us. We alone answer for them on Judgment Day. What we answer for, especially where our soul and matters of eternity are concerned, is in our jurisdiction and should not be taken away from us. It's critical to be self-controlled, and when others seek inappropriate degrees of control they hinder the work of the Spirit in our life.
It's no wonder that Jesus calls us to love God with all we've got, with every fiber of our being. “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength...” When the ability to do these things of our own volition is taken from us, we must make right this aspect of our lives in order to be whole.
The answer to over-control is found in Romans 12.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (v.1)
"You" present yourself. Your parents, pastor, husband, and friends cannot appropriately present your body as a living sacrifice. How this looks will be different for everyone, which makes it crucial to hear God's voice and will for your life.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (v. 2)
Being conformed means to be squeezed from the outside—which is undue influence or control, whether we allow it, or whether it is projected onto us. Transformation, however, comes from within and is a direct result of walking in the Spirit. Let's look again at verse 2, paraphrased according to the understood verbiage of our language:
And [you] do not be conformed to this world, but [you] be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
When we are filled with the Spirit and walk in Him, He is the One who renews our minds for the purpose of living in obedience and proving the perfect will of God. Yet when we are hindered by others who insist that we follow their will, or their ideas of what is good and acceptable and perfect, we won't be able to prove God's.
We cannot serve two masters.
The pivotal point in that verse is the renewing of your mind. Only you with the Holy Spirit can renew your mind. God doesn't force Himself on us. Yet mind-control is overwhelmingly present within authoritarian families. Healing from mind-control is essential for us to be free, for where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.
Next week we will begin looking at ways mind control manifests within high-demand groups and compare it with the authoritarian family.