Check out

Blogs

Emailing in an Academic Context
Helpful for both professors and students, indeed for all email communications.

How does a pastor deal with awkward silence with visiting folks?
Brian Croft offers guidance for those dreaded moments.

The FAQs: The World Vision Gaza Scandal
“The manager of the Gaza branch of World Vision has been arrested by Israeli law enforcement and charged with funneling about $43 million to the Islamist militant group Hamas. The manager, Mohammad El Halabi, is also accused of having specifically infiltrated World Vision for the purpose of reaching an influential position from which he could provide funds and resources for Hamas militants.”

God Filled Your Bible with Poems
You’ll be surprised at how much of your Bible is poetry.

Five Hand Gestures to Make You a Better Public Speaker
Basic but some don’t even get to the basics. And here’s one on Donald Trump’s hand gestures.

Help Reform Worship In Brazil
A GoFundMe page to translate one of Danny Hyde’s books in Portuguese.

Kindle Books

Brothers, We Are Not Professionals by John Piper $0.99.

Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World by Michael Horton $3.99.

On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (Student Edition) by William Craig $3.99.


Three Causes of Controlling Behavior

Yesterday we looked at some of the symptoms and character traits of controlling people. But what are the deeper underlying causes? Unsurprisingly for a secular book that pays tribute to Freud, Mallinger traces the roots to one’s parents. However, in this case, he’s probably on to something, at least as a partial answer. He says the most common scenario he hears in his practice from obsessives and controllers is:

A parent whose love seemed conditional, tied to such things as how well they performed, and how “good” or capable they were. Because they also perceived their parents as critical, negativistic, and hard to please, these bright, sensitive children felt caught in a no-win situation, never feeling that they were good enough—never feeling secure. (7)

Mallinger does allow that this is based on the reporting of controlling types, and that this may simply be the way they perceive their parents. However, it’s too common a narrative to dismiss altogether, and it also makes sense that such parenting would often result in these traits being internalized by children.

Many of Mallinger’s obsessive patients did not feel liked by one or both parents. They’d tried to be good kids but were either not appreciated or frequently criticized. Nothing was ever good enough. The resulting feelings of anxiety, insecurity, and longing to be liked, engendered perfectionism, caution, drivenness, and other obsessive traits.

Moving on from the parental cause, Mallinger then identifies genes. Some kids are just perfectionist, picky, cautious, etc. from birth. They seem to have a constitutional pre-disposition to obsessiveness that is then often multiplied by early childhood experiences.

Christian Qualifications and Additions

These are helpful observations for understanding how such traits can develop, and should increase our compassion and understanding for such sufferers. However, as Christians with Calvin’s spectacles, we have to go further in three ways. First, we have to say that even if the causes have parental or genetic components, we must believe that the Word of God and the Holy Spirit have a necessary and important role to play in conditioning how we react to our parental or genetic inheritance. We are still responsible for seeking spiritual resources to re-condition or overcome our responses to such social or physical factors. (In extreme cases, this may be in combination with meds.) Hopefully we can explore what this looks like in further posts.

Second, there can also be spiritual causes such as a failure to trust in the sovereignty of God, refusal to accept one’s fallenness, denial of the world’s imperfection, or just plain pride and man- (and woman-) pleasing.

Third, we have to adjust our parenting so that we do not cause such problems for our children (and repent if we have). It’s hardly surprising in an age of hyper-achieving children (and parents) that there’s a growing epidemic of mental disorders in our kids. Mallinger speaks of the need for unconditional love. Unfortunately, for him that means simply accepting virtually everything our kids say and do. However, without going to that extreme, I’m sure it would help many of our kids to know that their parents love them regardless of their GPA. We might be sparing them a lifetime of misery.

The Controller’s Engine Room 

Regardless of whether the causes are psychological, biological, or spiritual, the engine room of a an obsessive is a constant effort to control everything in the world around them (and inside them). It’s an attempt to guarantee security; to assure safe passage through the risks and uncertainties of living. They somehow think that if they try hard enough they can eliminate risk.

Such behavior can pay handsome dividends, as it tends to produce high-achievers, people who are admired for their self-discipline and organization. However, it comes with a dreadful inner price tag of loneliness, fear, and anxiety. Here’s how Mallinger puts it:

Many obsessives suffer the endless agony of having to do everything well—an unnecessary imperative that can ruin even the most enjoyable of activities. Their fear of embarrassment and appearing less than perfect may keep them from trying new things. They struggle daily under the weight of a massive inner rulebook, an overgrown sense of duty, responsibility, and fairness. Most obsessives rarely taste the joys of the moment; the present hardly exists for them. Even in their time off, many can’t fully relax, or just play. Indeed, they never are really “off.” Worries bedevil them as they plow through life doing the “right” things, hoping that caution, diligence, and sacrifice will pay off—someday. (9)

Does this sound painfully familiar? Tomorrow we’ll look at Mallinger’s diagnostic tool to help us decide if our orderliness has become a disorder.

Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets out of Control by Allen Mallinger.


Check out

Blogs

Which Joy Rules Your Heart?
Brian Hedges argues that John Owen was a Christian hedonist. I found this fascinating because I’m presently preparing a paper for a John Owen Conference in the Netherlands. The topic? “John Owen on Human Happiness.” I wouldn’t go so far as Brian in describing Owen as a Christian hedonist–his primary focus is far more on holiness than on happiness–but it is surprising how often he does refer to delighting in God.

Are You A Discouraged Pastor?
“Be very careful what you are using as a ministry evaluator. Some things can be deceptive; not the least of which is our own flesh and cravings for affirmation.”

Five Things Singles Wish Married Couples Knew
“In my experience, I don’t talk much about my singleness for a host of reasons, including protecting myself from unhelpful opinions, trying not to be the token single person, and sometimes it feels like pushing on a bruise. But when someone who is truly a friend brings up singleness, it’s much easier for me to feel like I can be honest with them, and their understanding reminds me of God’s love and attention toward me. So give it a shot! Your single friends will thank you for it!”

How to Lead in the Face of Criticism
Michael Hyatt says that “Criticism is inevitable, especially as your success and business grow.” In this podcast, he provides four foundational truths to remember so you can remain grounded and refuse to take offense.” And on a related topic here’s 4 Types of People Leaders Must Not Listen To.

Some Things You Should Know About Christians Who Struggle With Anxiety
This is so good, so important, so helpful, so honest, so balanced.

“For 7 years I have lived with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety. It has completely changed my life. I have written and drawn about these things before and the response has proven to me that there are tons of Christians who relate to my story.”

On Being Persuasive | Gentle Reformation
Some help in persuading others.

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

Sex and Money: Pleasures that Leave you Empty and Grace that Satisfies by Paul Tripp $5.99.

Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History by Francis Schaeffer $2.99.

Hope Heals: A Story of Overwhelming Loss and Overcoming Love $1.99.

New Book

Spiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Model for Women Mentoring Women by Susan Hunt.

Many churches lack a crucial element central to the flourishing of women: older women mentoring younger women. Using Titus 2 as a guide, seasoned author Susan Hunt casts a biblical vision of what the church can be when women invest in vibrant relationships with one another. Featuring inspiring stories from the Bible and from women today who have faithfully embraced Scripture’s command, this book offers readers an abundance of practical insights, ministry-tested how-to’s, and personal encouragement. Now featuring a new cover, this classic book will inspire a new generation of women to seek out the blessing of godly relationships that will encourage and equip them to live for God’s glory.


Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets Out of Control

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been surprised at how many times “control” issues have emerged as a major issue in counseling Christians with anxiety and/or depression. (It’s been a major factor in marital counseling too.) As I couldn’t find any Christian books which dealt specifically with this subject, I bought Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets Out of Control, put on my Calvin spectacles and started reading.

The book emerged out of the challenges and frustrations the author, psychiatrist Allan Mallinger, faced in trying to counsel obsessive people. Like other mental-health professionals, he found “obsessive people often are controlling or cerebral or distrustful or secretive or emotionally constricted or resistant to change or all of the above.”

Yes, they often have many virtues such as being hard-working, reliable, self-controlled, honest, etc. But their striving for excellence in themselves and others makes them too perfect for their own good. As Pascal said: “When we would pursue virtues to their extremes on either side, vices present themselves.… We find fault with perfection itself.” Their perfectionism means that are never at ease with themselves or with anyone else.

By this point, you might be thinking, “Am I looking in the mirror?” Well, here are examples of the kind of person Malinger has in mind:

  • The person so driven to meet professional and personal goals that she can’t abandon herself to a few hours of undirected leisure without feeling guilty or undisciplined.
  • The person so preoccupied with making the right choice that he has difficulty making even relatively simple decisions usually regarded as pleasurable: buying a new stereo; choosing where to go on vacation.
  • The person so finicky that his pleasure is spoiled if everything isn’t “just so.”
  • The “thinkaholic” whose keen, hyperactive mind all too often bogs her down in painful worry and rumination.
  • The perfectionist, whose need to improve and polish every piece of work chronically causes her to devote much more time than necessary to even inconsequential assignments.
  • The person so intent upon finding the ultimate romantic mate that he seems unable to commit to any long-term relationship.
  • The person so acclimated to working long hours that she can’t bring herself to cut back, even when confronted with evidence that the overwork is ruining her health or her family relationships.
  • The procrastinator who feels angry at his “laziness”—unaware that the real reason he is unable to undertake tasks is that his need to do them flawlessly makes them loom impossibly large.

One of the primary ways in which the need to be in control (of oneself, others, life’s risks) manifests itself is perfectionism. When control and perfectionism combine, a whole family of personality traits is produced, including:

  • A fear of making errors
  • A fear of making a wrong decision or choice
  • A strong devotion to work
  • A need for order or firmly established routine
  • Frugality
  • A need to know and follow the rules
  • Emotional guardedness
  • A tendency to be stubborn or oppositional
  • A heightened sensitivity to being pressured or controlled by others
  • An inclination to worry, ruminate, or doubt
  • A need to be above criticism—moral, professional, or personal
  • Cautiousness
  • A chronic inner pressure to use every minute productively

Mallinger points out that many of these traits are valuable and necessary for success. Problems arise when they become dominant and inflexible — that’s where checklists like this come in helpful.

They’re also useful because one of the greatest difficulties in counseling people with such self-generated anguish is that most obsessives are unaware that they’re harming themselves and others. Few, if any, come and say, “Hello, I’m an obsessive perfectionist with control issues!” Most come for another issue or, most commonly, because a loved one, a colleague, a boss, or a friend has encouraged them to seek help.

Having noted the symptoms, Mallinger says the next step is to trace the underlying cause or causes. I’ll return to that tomorrow, and I’d encourage all parents to tune in.


Check out

Blogs

Inside The Head Of Trump Voters
Rod Dreher summarizes and analyzes an important speech on our culture by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt.

7 Pitfalls to Avoid in Preaching
I especially commend avoiding pitfall #7

“Yes, it allows you to express your point exactly as you wish, with carefully chosen words. But does that actually improve communication? Only if the congregation is engaged and list ening. This is precisely the typical problem with preaching from a full manuscript. It tends to create ”bubble preaching,” where the sermon is delivered in a bubble of sorts, cut off from the congregation as the preacher works word-for-word through his manuscript.”

A Christward Anniversary
One of my favorite writers, Nick Batzig, has catalogued his articles at The Christward Collective over the past three years.

Making Changes in a Church
This is Nick’s latest article. And if you try to change things in your church, you’ll also need this post: How Should Leaders React When Attacked?

How Long Is the Average Sermon Series?
How long is the average sermon series? Here are the results of a recent survey by Preaching Magazine.

He Knows Your Sorrows
A beautiful meditation on the comfort of God’s knowledge.

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

Marriage Matters: Extraordinary Change Through Ordinary Moments by Winston Smith $1.99.

Out of the Depths: An Unforgettable WWII Story of Survival, Courage, and the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis $1.99.

The Illustrated Life of Paul by Charles Quarles $2.99.

Recommended Book

Not a new book, but new to me. It’s a children’s book.

God’s Names by Sally Michael $12.91.

 


Check out

Blogs

What Would God Say to Your Anxiety?
It’s not the whole answer but it’s a large part of it.

A Controversial Article and What We Can Learn
Following a barrage of criticism, TGC removed a recent article that described the author’s experience of inter-racial marriage in her family. Here, TGC hosts a podcast to discuss why the article was taken down and what lessons can be learned. Thabiti makes a valiant attempt to put some of the broken pieces back together again here: In Praise of Gaye Clark (and Others Like Her). But my fear of the resulting fallout is many silenced white voices, especially of those working to bridge the terrible divides. And, worse, many blocked white ears. And, worst of all, disengagement and withdrawal.

R.C. Sproul’s Crucial Questions eBooks Now Free Forever
Here is a complete list of the 25 free ebooks in the Crucial Questions series.

Whose hate? Which victims?
Carl Trueman makes the case for more hate crimes (or at least different ones).

Partial Victory for California Christian Universities
A step in the right direction, for once.

Kindle Books

Tough Topics 2: Answers to 25 Challenging Questions by Sam Storms $2.99.

Everything you Ever Wanted to Know about God but were Afraid to Ask by Eric Metaxes $1.99.

Mea Culpa: Learning from Mistakes in Ministry by Kyle MccLellan $1.99.

New Book

On Pastoring: A Short Guide to Living, Leading, and Ministering to Pastors by H B Charles.

Video

A Conversation with Phil Ryken about the Darkest Period of his Life

You can read about this in Dr. Ryken’s new book, When Trouble Comes.