Around 1985, I read a book by M. Scott Peck, M.D. called People of the Lie. Peck was a highly credentialed psychiatrist with somewhat Christian leanings. An earlier book, The Road Less Traveled, was a blockbuster best seller and was about his personal search for meaning. It was an uplifting book.
But People of the Lie was about evil. Peck noted that there were seemingly “evil” people who did not fit any known psychiatric diagnosis. They were beyond being sociopaths or personality disorders—they were simply evil. In this book he gave a definition of evil that stuck with me and which I’ve written about in several of my books. He defined it as controlling others for our own selfish and nefarious needs. The evil twin of control is always power, and I believe that having an inordinate need for power and control is the great corrupter of all relationships.
Most of us have had friends, bosses, spouses and co-workers described as “control freaks.” Perhaps, that term has been used to describe us as well. Almost none of us are completely innocent when it comes to using noxious strategies to gain power and control in a situation. The term “control freak” has become ubiquitous in the past decade, and it would be a rare individual who has not felt the icy grip of a control freak on the nape of their neck at one time or another.
Most would likely view the murder of another human being as the most serious crime or sin one could imagine. The deliberate murder of another is also the ultimate act of control. But short of murder, there remain hundreds of acts of control committed in all of our lives daily—sometimes the victim but sometimes we are the perpetrator. Infancy and early childhood are all about control. Good parents attempt to control the impulses of their children to keep them from getting hurt. Bad parents exert their power to compensate for their own inadequacies or to dump their anger. Children learn all sorts of control techniques by simply imitating their parents. The developmental stage known as the “terrible twos” is all about children trying to shift the locus of control from their parents to themselves. They want to rule supreme in their own little world and along the way they discover the power of “no.” Our unconscious (with a little help from the enemy) tells us that we are only safe when we are in control.
Some control is achieved via brute force, but more often than not in our “civilized” society adults gain control thru manipulation, bribery, feigned helplessness and guilt. Some women whine their way to power and control. Most of us encounter unrighteous use of power in marriage and the work place. Power is an aphrodisiac for many and some people are so perverse that they will exert control simply because they are addicted to it. A friend of mine’s boss made him rearrange the furniture in his office for no really good reason. He is a compliant person, and she was his boss, and so he did what she asked. The ultimate consequence was that he felt powerless and demeaned and she felt powerful.
It is difficult to not be a victim at one time or another of someone else’s power trip. That’s just life and about the best we can really do is to look out for these people and learn to manage them–and learn to forgive them. I cannot with any great certainty tell you how not to be a victim. In a sense, Jesus was a victim, and we will be also if we live our lives with integrity. However, I can tell you how not to be a perpetrator of evil acts of power and control. Christians can look to Jesus in learning how to handle those needs. In Luke 4, Satan presents Jesus with three temptations during His 40-day fast in the wilderness. As I see it, the second temptation is about power and control. From a high mountain Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and states that all their power and splendor can all be his if He will just worship him. In His response Jesus quotes scripture and states, “get thee behind me Satan,” for it is written “thou shall worship God and serve him only.” Our focus should always be on how Jesus lived his life. He was obedient to the Father’s command to love and serve Him and Him only. He answered Satan from scripture. He always deferred to His Father’s will. He had no selfish ego needs for power and control.
We have to love others in a way that allows them the same free will that we are given by the Father.