Control Freak

Received wisdom from several priests is that you don’t become a vicar without being a control freak. Those who live with me, work with me, or indeed spend any time at all with me will know that I do exhibit some signs of needing to be in control. Just sometimes.

I find relinquishing control hard – being at the mercy of other people’s decisions is stressful for me. Knowing someone else will decide when to speak to me, or who to ask to do something, or where I should be at a particular point is hard. But it is also relaxing to let go of some of the decision making – to go with the flow. 


Nouwen points out the vulnerability of our position when we let go of control and ask forgiveness from others. I cannot be in control when I admit my failings. Nouwen says this is the point at which “your heart can move from the hardened heart to the heart of flesh”. We become softened.

There is vulnerability in confessing my failings. And two small changes ….There is vulnerability in confessing my feelings. I am reminded of the anger I felt and feel over the way that priesthood of women is perceived by some. I am reminded of my resentment at the stance of the Church on marriage. These are real feelings – real failings, but they need to be softened if I am to be able to seek forgiveness, in the most practical of ways, by working with those of differing views. And there must be integrity about seeking forgiveness – I may repent of being so angry and uncharitable, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I change my opinion. How does that fit with being forgiven? is it just another example of Control Freakery? Is it proof that I’m not open to being softened at all?

Nouwen suggests I should ask forgiveness of one person today. I’m very unsure of where or even how to begin.    

9 responses to “Control Freak

  1. I don’t think that you are necessarily a control freak, just someone like myself, whose life and training have required a measure of control of events, which can be hard to let go off – and you are in that period of formation where your letting go is important to your developing ministry.

    At BAP, one of the criticisms made was that I liked to be in control. I had to point out that my experience and training in the Army was to be in control of events, because if you allowed them to get out of control you were generally in a position where people would die or be harmed as a response.

    I also pointed out that since joining the church, I had willingly relinquished that control, in fact, I welcomed the opportunity to surrender my will to that of God’s, why else was I facing them?

    I suspect that they were not the answers that they expected or were seeking – my expectation was they they were not looking for someone who would be unquestioningly obedient? Because, if I am true to myself (which they told me that I needed to be) than I couldn’t be blindly obedient.

    So, I’ve attempted to not be in control in my life. To surrender it totally to God, what I’ve found is that he doesn’t really want me to give up all control he wants me to have a perspective to see him working and follow the signs he is giving – but in a time, place and a way that might move things along in a different direction that I expected.

    I know that I am nervous when not in control, but also expectant, because who knows what new opportunities might arise from it – and they often do.

    • It’s a fine line, isn’t it? One person’s check list is another person’s controlling device! I think Dave Foster’s point (below) is important – and within that there is ability to delegate, and trust other people to do what they say they will.
      I love the idea that interesting, unexpected things happen when we relinquish control- they certainly do for me!

  2. I know some very good Vicars that are not control freaks and. Some awful ones that are. I get angry too about things especially lack of a willingness on the part of some to really do collaborative ministry. It makes the pastoral part of my job with the Diocese really tough at times picking up the pieces.

    • Ouch! I note that the people telling me good Vicars are control freaks are generally those who like to be in control. I agree that without collaborative working, there really is no point – I try to collaborate with God, with the ministry team, with the churches, with the parishes. Sometimes I succeed!

      • Sorry Claire. Didn’t mean to get at you. Just sounding a note of caution about control freakery having had a bad experience lately with one of my students. Julia and I (is that correct grammar?) are finding that a certain amount of control is necessary otherwise anarchy reigns.

  3. Nothing wrong with anger in and of itself – it’s a very healthy emotion, but sadly one which is frequently unacknowledged and not expressed and therefore frequently turned inward resulting in depression. We fannot forgive

  4. sorry – my compute has gone on the blink a bit, I tried ot correct the typo and it posted the reply and I can’t now work out how to delete it – #fail!

    • ooer… and again! I was gong to say that we cannot forgive until we have expressed our proper anger. Maybe i should write my own blog post for today… haven’t read the readings yet.

      • Yes, I think you have something there about identifying and naming the things for whcih we seek forgiveness. Although by God’s grace I am forgiven, I feel that I can’t use that knowledge as a “get out of gaol free card” – that changing, or at least trying to change is part of being forgiveness. If I’m not aware of what in me needs to change and grow towards God, then I might resist it when God tries to help it happen.

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