by Tracy Manno
A couple days ago I was watching my two daughters argue, which can be fairly entertaining at times. I don’t always intervene right away in hopes they will find ways to work it out. Over the years they have learned how to push each others buttons, and they each know what drives the other crazy. They have also, unfortunately, learned how to use these skills to influence the others actions by manipulating their emotions. And as I continued to watch it became clear they weren’t going to attempt to make peace on their own.
At the center of this particular argument, the younger one was trying to keep a secret from the older, and the older knew she was. So she took advantage of her younger sister by saying things that would purposely rile her up until, out of frustration, would divulge her secret. Once the younger sister realized what had happened she was devastated! “How could I let this happen?! How did she gain control over me that way again?!” And the tears started to roll down her cheeks.
My goal in that moment, as a parent, was to teach them not just about what is right and wrong, but about why and how the choices they made were destructive, in fact, hateful. Each of them was looking to gain control over the other. The first wanted to hold power over the other with secret information, and the second wanted to control the actions of the other by manipulating emotion.
I heard it said recently that if someone can control how you feel than they can control how you think, and ultimately how you respond. Based on this simple example with my two girls, I’d say there’s quite a bit of truth to that statement.
When we allow others to swell our emotions, whether by words or deed, and we don’t ground ourselves with reason and discernment before responding, we are in danger of handing them control of the direction of our actions. Remember that old phrase, “My anger got the best of me.” When this happens, which it does to all of us, our anger – or hurt, fear, guilt, shame, etc – becomes the leash around our neck that someone else is in control of. And unless we recognize it, and take back control through the use of our mind and powers of judgment, we will forever find ourselves saying those words “How did she gain control over me that way again?!”
In James 1:19 it says “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry (or respond).” We are also told in Ecclesiastes “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry (or offended), for anger lodges in the heart of fools.”
All these instructions are there to help us protect our freedom and maintain control of our own lives. They are meant to keep us free from the control of others, keep us on God’s path for our lives, and live a life of worship in Spirit and Truth.
I pray this story comes to mind throughout your week, and you will find yourself taking back control of the areas in your life that the enemy has sought to steal from you.