How to Recognize a Controlling Spirit

Identifying Jezebel

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines
the course of your life.” ~ Proverbs 4:23

The Body of Christ is being plagued by a Jezebel spirit. What is a Jezebel spirit? In short, it is a spirit of control. The name derives from Jezebel, wife of Ahab in the Old Testament, who was a control freak.

Isolated hand control business man

A spirit of control has its roots in fear. Those who are dominated by a spirit of control always act out of fear, not out of love. When such a person is in a leadership role, the results can be disastrous, resulting in broken relationships and even church schisms.  

Here are some signs of a controlling spirit:

  1. Assuming authority one does not have.  I have seen this especially among pastors’ wives (or husbands) who believe that they have the rights of a co-pastor just because they are married to the pastor. A young woman came to me recently who had been hired for a paid position in her church. Her boss was the pastor, and she was told that she reported to him alone. The pastor’s wife, however, who was not this young woman’s boss, began to give orders to the young woman regarding how she was to do her job. When the young woman politely explained that the pastor was her boss and had given the young woman freedom to make basic decisions regarding her job, the pastor’s wife became irate. Upon closer investigation, the young woman discovered that this particular pastor’s wife continually interfered in her husband’s role as pastor, even though she was not ordained. The pastor, by the way, was afraid to confront his wife. While the young woman really liked her job, she could not continue to function under a controlling spirit and eventually left.
  2. Inability to admit that one was wrong. A controlling person will rarely, if ever, admit that he was wrong. He will not allow room for the viewpoints of others and insists that his viewpoint alone is the correct one. While displaying a false sense of confidence, controlling people are really very insecure.
  3. Taking matters into their own hands–especially matters that do not belong in their hands. A controlling person believes that no one can handle a matter as well as she can. This attitude is rooted in pride. A controlling person cannot bear to think that others may know more about something than he does. 
  4. Manipulating circumstances. Manipulation is one of the chief characteristics of a controlling spirit. A controlling person will go out of his way to get others to do things his way. Because control is rooted in fear, a controlling person attempts to maintain control of her environment by controlling others. In so doing, the controlling person is deceived into thinking she is safe and secure. 
  5. Casting blame on others. A controlling person will blame others for rifts in communication and for problems resulting from her controlling spirit. She must maintain a superior position in order to feel good about herself. She refuses to look at herself as the one responsible for the problem.

Dealing with a controlling person can be extremely difficult because the controlling person refuses to admit she is the problem. If you are involved with a controlling person, it is imperative that you establish your boundaries and express them. If you are under the authority of a controlling person, it is imperative that you not allow yourself to be abused. Pray for the person in authority over you, but if things don’t change, remove yourself from the situation. 

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The Controlling Heart

Do you have a controlling heart?  Or, perhaps, you know someone who does. Whichever the case, a controlling heart can cause major problems both for the one doing the controlling and the one allowing himself to be controlled.

What are some of the characteristics of a controlling heart?  Here are a few of the most common:

  • Controlling people want to dictate how everything around them is done. They nag and insist on their own way of doing things.
  • Controlling people are unable to admit their mistakes. They have to be right and refuse to listen to constructive criticism that could set them free from the spirit of control.
  • Controlling people assume authority without being asked and without the spiritual or legal right to do so. They may interrupt a meeting and simply take over, or they may make a decision they have no authority to make.
  • Controlling people micro-manage their spouses, their children, their friends, and their co-workers. They offer advice without being asked.
  • Controlling people are manipulative. They often use charm to get their own way.
  • Controlling people are narcissistic, selfish, and very immature. They believe their way is the best way. They will not consider the opinions of others as being as valid as their own.

Usually one of two evil spirits lies at the root of a controlling personality: 1) the spirit of power or 2) the spirit of fear.  Some controlling people have a sick need to dominate others and will attempt to bully them into complying with their wishes.  Other controlling people operate out of fear that if they do not hold the reins, their world will fall apart. In my experience, most controlling people are motivated by fear.  Both spirits of control will, if not confronted, destroy relationships, families, churches, and organizations.

Control issues usually start in early childhood because of a home environment that, in some way, failed to make the child feel secure.  As a result, the child developed a method of coping with anxiety by attempting to control his environment. What the controlling person fails to realize is that control is an illusion that inhibits healthful growth and fosters bondage. While authority is ordained of God, a controlling person abuses that authority to the detriment of himself and others.

People with controlling spirits are usually very insecure and have serious codependency issues. This means that they need to control others in order to feel safe and secure themselves. Especially challenging are controlling persons in positions of authority. I have seen organizations split or fail to full their destiny because of a controlling person who either led the organization or led the leader of the organization.

If you struggle with a controlling personality, get help. If you are the victim of a controlling personality, get help to free yourself in the proper way. 

God made us to be free within the confines of His Word. He who seeks to control another is assuming a role attributable only to God. Doing so is nothing short of idolatry.

Copyright 2015 by Dr. MaryAnn Diorio. All Rights Reserved.