Letting Go of Control Podcast

God has knit into our frame the capacity to have dominion. At some level, it comes from being an image bearer of his. Yet, it comes as no surprise, that after the fall, our capacity to have dominion has been bent. For the worse. In this episode of Breaking Bread, Brian Sutter and Kaleb Beyer address the tendency we have towards taking unhealthy control of situations. Wonderfully, letting go of control is possible, and who teaches it better than the Lord of Lords and King of Kings ~ Jesus.

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Show notes:

I might have an unhealthy relationship with control if:

  • I have an excessive need to be in-charge.
  • I am slow to give responsibility to others.
  • I am irritated when my plans are not followed.
  • I ignore the boundaries of others.
  • I don’t trust others.
  • I think too highly of my opinions.
  • I am impatient with others.
  • I work better alone than with people.

My desire for control might be fueled by the following reasons:

  • Insecurity – my grasping for control soothes the discomfort I have in myself.
  • Identity – my grasping for control is an effort to prove myself.
  • Fear – my grasping for control protects me from disorder and disaster.
  • Pride – My grasping for control assumes I know better than others.

Even though he is the King of Kings, letting go of control is inspired by and exampled by Jesus:

  • He let go of his control to become a baby.
  • He let go of his control to be obedient to his parents.
  • He let go of his control to be tempted by Satan.
  • He let go of his control to be tried before magistrates.
  • He let go of his control to be killed on a cross.

By letting go of control, Jesus secured his Lordship.

“I lay down my life, that I might take it again.” John 10:17


One of the ways of deepening a relationship with God is recognizing our own vulnerability and our need to rely on him. And so, when we are in a habit of over control, I think it inhibits the ability to daily live in the reality of his presence and our need for him.  

Welcome everyone to Breaking Bread, the podcast brought to you by Apostolic Christian Counseling and Family Services. Wonderful to have you along. Kaleb Beyer and Brian Sutter are with me here today. Glad to be with you, Matt. Yeah. Good to be with you. To set up the topic here today, guys, we’re going to go back to the Garden of Eden. God created us with a measure of control. He has knit within us, actually, I don’t quite have my mind around how it is we’re going to be kings and rulers, but you read in Scripture that we have the power to judge and all of these things that are really outside of my comprehension, but you see God has knit into us control at some level. 

There’s no surprise with all things post the fall, that control among any other things just gets bent up sideways. And by this control, all of a sudden now we can hurt people. And so, this is the narrow space of this conversation, okay? Is this concept of control, we’ve titled it letting go of control, right? 

Because we know that’s a good thing. But let’s just, I’d love to hear your thoughts, even through that introduction. What is that? Does this conversation need to be controlled? I am letting go of control right now. What I’m doing is I’m handing it over to you. This is our chance. 

It’s a very real life topic where we can see that we have, and I would say, the ability to influence and we want to step into those places where we have influence, but it seems like there’s an awful fine line to, okay, when have I moved into control and what’s beyond? Or in a way that is moved into more like what I would call rigidity and that is a tricky thing to navigate and most, I don’t know that too many of us would say, oh, we’ve nailed it, but you can see it when it goes sideways. 

There are some ditches. Oh, for sure. Yeah. And I really appreciate you making influence. Okay. So that even helps color the concept, right? Really what we’re doing is the ability to influence. Yeah. Kaleb, if you were to provide some definition about what it is we’re talking about in control.  

Yeah. Well. Actually, so I looked up the definition of control, like what, how would you define control in Merriam Webster to exercise restraining or directing influence over, or the power over, okay? Can you help us, like, give us an example? Yeah, so the controlling individual can be at different levels. 

So, it can be all the way from obviously abusive where control is in the form of restricting where someone goes or who they talk to or physically powering over someone. We would say that that’s control, but control can also happen in a sense of, in a sometimes a healthy relationship. I’m a withdrawer in my relationship. 

So sometimes a way of controlling could be not engaging in conversation in a sense of I’m not controlling necessarily her, but I am because I’m controlling by absence. Yes, absolutely. I’m pulling away when I need to engage and does that make sense? So, I think there’s a wide range from aggression to passive. 

We have this wide spectrum, Brian, further fill up this spectrum as you see it. Well, I mean, I think anything that’s rigid, just has to be a certain way, there’s no degree of flexibility. So, you know, that can go anywhere from how does the morning routine unfold? And if things don’t go in this order or the way that I think it ought to go, then that’s going to be a problem and it’s going to bring big emotions. And then, naturally that’s going to lead to relational conflict if there’s relationships involved. So, it can go anywhere from like your morning routine or what you eat for meals or when you think about planning something in the future, it has to be a certain way. And if it gets off of that course at all, then that control kicks in one on the planning, but then on the response when it doesn’t go the way we want it to. And it even comes out with others.  

So, each of us here on this table are parents. And when I think about. You know, we have three teenagers and when kids aren’t supposed to do this, they shouldn’t be responding this way. They shouldn’t be acting this way. There is a level of place that there can be rigidity in the way that I’m engaging them, not where they are, but where I want them to be and holding onto that place. And, and certainly for a young child, we control a great deal of their life. Oh, we need to rightfully so. 

And then as they get older, I know right now I’ve got someone at the upper end of my kids. I just told Rebecca this, I said, I know I could convince him such and such, but I would sure like him to make this decision. And there’s a difference there and it’s so hard not to do the convincing route. 

And maybe I should, I’m not even sure I know what I should be doing. But I can see myself controlling that if I want to. And I think that’s one of the tricks here is many times what we do that maybe is controlling rightfully so is meant to be protective. And at what point do you pull that back knowing full well that offers the opportunity for hurts or wounds and how to do that in a wise way that you’re not just putting the people that you love in a really dangerous situation, but you’re also not restricting in a way that’s going to keep them from being able to grow the skills and tools that they need. 

I wonder if you’ve even tipped your hat to one of the reasons that we do it as fear. I would say fear is a reason that maybe would become rigid, but even underneath that, so the underbelly, if you will, of control or power is we’re vulnerable. We open ourselves up in a sense to vulnerability and like Brian was saying, being hurt or things happening to us. 

Does that make sense? Okay. I want to make sure I understand that you’re saying we’re trying to protect ourselves from that vulnerability. Yes. Exactly. So, to let go of that is to be in a place of vulnerability for things to work out in ways that I don’t have power over. Okay. So, security, insecurity. 

Is that another than fuel here? Oh, absolutely. When inside there’s part of me that wonders, is it going to turn out or can I do this? Like for some of us, that’s going to kick on. Like I’ve got to work really hard to make things unfold the way that I want them to. For some of us, it moves us into passivity and we kind of check out like, oh, if this has a chance of not going well or revealing that, you know, I’m not good, we check out, but some then double down on the control in a major way. 

At times it can be less about controlling the situation or circumstance and more about controlling the distress that I feel in my own body and sitting or experiencing fear or the feeling of insecurity or the feeling of being out of control. Yes. And having that and sitting with that is really hard and scary and uncomfortable, and if I can control circumstances, so I don’t have to feel that, sounds great to me. 

Yeah, I think that’s really key, Kaleb. I even reflect on my own controlling, right? It is very inward. Yeah, for sure. And, in knowing that I think is really helpful, that in many ways the goal then switches from control and managing everything outside of us into being reflective and thinking, okay, what’s going on inside of me and what insight, what direction does that give me? And how do I step into that in a way that’s helping regulate that rather than changing everything outside of me? Yeah.  

All right. So, let’s learn from Jesus. So, he must have done this, Creator of the universe, sovereign in charge, bestowed with all manner of power, and yet he doesn’t come across controlling in the Scripture, does he? Not at all. And I think one of the things that blows me away about Jesus is he’s not panicked either. Yeah. He knows who he is. He doesn’t have the fear element. He doesn’t have the fear. He doesn’t have to manage these people’s opinions. He doesn’t have to manage, he just is. And in that, there’s a settledness, even when everything around him is falling apart and it’s not going according to what we would say is the plan, there’s so much to learn and think about there.  

So, I heard this a number of months ago and it’s stuck with me. And that is, so as we’re engaging here, Matt, I can talk directly with Brian and I can talk about Brian in his presence. Like he can be here and I can talk, Matt, with you about Brian, but we can also, at times, if Brian leaves the room, I can still talk about Brian to you. Yes. Well think about I won’t tell him, that we do. Thank you. And hopefully all nice things, right? Yeah. I’m trying do this all the time. I’m kind of nervous about where this is headed. Yeah. Okay. I’ll say that. Well, so, if you think about that in our relationship with God, okay, we can talk to God, we can talk about God with him knowing we’re here, but the third option is we can talk about God as if he’s not here. 

And Jesus never lived his life, engaging life as if God wasn’t there. There was an internal, eternal presence. Yes. There was an eternal presence that Jesus walked this world in internal presence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, which is what we’re called to do, right? And indwelt with the Holy Spirit, which we know is the case. And then to be controlled by him. And I think this is maybe the heart of the matter. The reality is our tendency to want to control and even in good ways, but then, almost always naturally moves beyond that is because we forget there is an eternal God that is in control and he is always with us. 

And how do we hold on to that? Yeah. And it is hard. Like you’re saying, Brian, because in the short term, there’s payoff to control, right? As far as experiencing less distress, feeling wise or uncomfortable. Yeah. Situations. And so, it’s like a feedback loop in a sense, in unhealthy ways of control. So, I would like from your professional experience, I would imagine you encounter control, and that’s something that you work through with people and I think we’ve somewhat traced out some ill effect for ourselves as we look inward at the control when we’re controlling. What ill effect is there on other people?  

Well, I think there’s a lot of things. The thing that maybe comes initially is that generally speaking, if we move into control really frequently, that makes having just, good, deep, genuine relationships at a high level, just really difficult. So, I think one of the fallouts is that people don’t trust us or they don’t feel safe around us. And therefore, relationships in general and relational connection is just very, very difficult. Yeah. And, and with that, it actually heightens anxiety, the more we seek control, actually the more that we live in an anxious state because there’s no end to that. And ultimately, you’re going to come to places that you come to the reality that you can’t control it. And if your only tool that you have is to control it and now you’re faced with something that there’s just no way around out of your control, it’s totally out of your control and you can’t deceive yourself. 

And otherwise, I mean, that’s terrifying, terrifying. I think another one of the things that really hinders the other person is if we’re controlling, then that’s going to really limit their ability to learn or practice the things that they need to do, and then they’re going to be stifled as an individual and it’s going to limit their ability to grow into who God’s created them to be. 

Okay, I think now you’re onto something. Jesus empowered people. He didn’t leave people at a, he always left them in a more powerful state, didn’t he? I mean, Zacchaeus left with a spring in his step with the ability to repair relationships after he met Jesus, right? And on and on the examples go. 

I think that’s something really key there, Brian, what you’re saying there, and I think that’s what we see in Jesus. Yeah, I think so, that he does empower, and also too, like he’s not afraid of them making mistakes. I think he’s committed to them in that. So he’s giving them tools and helping bring insight and they’re learning and growing and sometimes that’s really exciting and, they leave with that spring in the step and sometimes it’s the Peter that’s like, oh man, I really did blow it. 

But through that he stays with them and they learn and grow and, and that’s a powerful thing. If we can move into that, that’s really sweet to think about. Well, I was just thinking related to Jesus and him empowering others that if you think about the incredible thing that he left heaven and he became a baby, like the most vulnerable place you could go from, Creator of the universe, complete control to no control, exactly. And so he knows what powerless in the sense of powerlessness is like, and that he redeems godly power in a way that transforms and encourages and motivates and puts the spring in our step, not only a physical, in the sense of a baby, but he came to a social economic powerless position too, right? 

He came on all measures of inferiority. That’s what he stepped into. And, I think it’s a good example that it feels it’s a little bit counterintuitive that would you say that Jesus had control? I mean, yeah, right? I mean, more control than any of us had. But in another sense… he did that from a position of no control and no power and no authority. 

And if we can hold on to that, say, boy, maybe I don’t have to do this. You can have a lot of influence and a lot of weakness. How do we give up control? What advice would you have for those of us that’s like, yep, that’s me. And I know I need to let go of some things. How do we do that responsibly? 

Because again, there’s ditches on both sides of this thing, right? I mean, I think one of the things that I would certainly encourage is trying to do some exploration to understand, you know, for you personally, what are the drivers? What are the drivers that move you into control? Is it things like insecurity or fear or are there past hurts that have come or anger or just your opinion you feel like is just right and therefore like to not fight for that is gonna sign people up for failure, whatever that is. 

But to know the drivers, I think, is really key to being able to shift from it. So that’s certainly one thing that comes to mind. And I think, being able to reflect and accept where is it that God calls me into control? A healthy level back to the beginning of our conversation, God does put us, whether it’s directing my own thoughts and being able to label and identify where God calls me to certain levels of control and where he does not, that I’m taking control of or over that are not my responsibility or whatever. And then the second thing I think is oftentimes underneath control is there’s desires and longings that we have are good to be seen, to be loved, to be known, and we seek to help others. 

Yes. And I think in some ways, back to what Brian was saying, if we’re able to know those drivers and underneath those drivers, connect with longings in healthy, safe relationships to express those, it really relieves the need to control in unhealthy ways. Because that’s ultimately, I think, what our desire is. 

And I think another thing that comes to mind is being able to recognize the lie that comes that says, so ask yourself the question, if I step back from controlling in this area… What’s going to happen and being able to hear the answers to that and then, inviting the Spirit, inviting the Word, inviting the people that you know and love to be able to speak into that most times those fears, they are a possibility, but they’re not likely. And then you’ve got to take the risk. And that’s again, moves you back into feeling those really uncomfortable emotions. But take the risk to say, okay, boy, I would really like to just make this thing happen. But, the lie is, if I don’t, then this catastrophic bad thing is going to happen to somebody that I love. 

Okay, if I’m going to take the risk to say, okay, that’s a lie and step back from that and then observe, does that terrible thing actually happen or not? And then if it doesn’t, to let that really impact us and say, oh, okay, maybe this isn’t something I have to control. I can still have a godly influence and move into knowing and pursuing those desires that are good and healthy ways. 

But I can do that in a different way that’s not. And we can take the risk because the relationship is worth the risk. So, it is a risky thing. So, let’s say, for example, that you’re somebody that has some insecurities or fears or the control comes around finances. And then, somebody in the family wants to spend some money and that’s going to kind of make the budget tight for the month. Well, you can double down and say, no, we’re not going to do that. Or you can take the risk and step back and say, okay, what am I fearful of? Well, if they do this, what’s gonna happen next month and what’s gonna happen next month? And then you’re forced to control because that outcome is really negative. 

But if you step back and say, okay, well maybe we could talk through this. Let’s see how it goes. And you give it a try and you take the risk and there’s a possibility that it won’t go well, but there’s a possibility that it will go well. And now you’ve given the relationship the opportunity to learn and connect and understand each other. 

You’ve shared power. Exactly. You’ve shared power, which then allows for that relationship to mature versus like it be kind of an authority, kind of mentee kind of a relationship. That’s good. I think that’s a good example. What could a person do today? How do you help your clients today begin the road of letting go of control? 

We know it’s going to be a long game, but are there activities? Are there exercises? Part of beginning is noticing within myself, when is it that I become more reactive or rigid or just being present with my own body and mind and here and now that I begin to notice I’m in that space. And I think along those same lines more, I think. 

What Kaleb’s talking about there is just insight, and I think that we would say in counseling, certainly that’s a huge key. So another part of that I would say is, is to ask somebody that knows you well, you know, do you think I’m controlling or what would be areas of life where you feel like Maybe I am more controlling and that it would be some wisdom or benefit and setting down control, like to be able to identify those things through your own observation. 

But then if you’d be willing to step into that space of asking somebody. That’s good. You know, here’s something else to think about, Matt, just in this practical space. And that would just be to look for, identify those things that can help regulate the emotions that come up that often feed into the control piece. 

And that would be just like, as you think about prayer and pray in a way that’s trying to release things and acknowledge that you’re not in control and yielding that to the Lord, even just rehearsing that in our own minds in prayer, I think, can be a really… powerful way. And really the picture that I get when you say that is in these moments of control, taking a step back and releasing that control and in a meditative moment or a prayerful moment, recognizing, looking up to the Controller. 

And, calibrating us again and getting us this right perspective of who are we in this situation. Yeah, absolutely. I think another thing that comes to mind, too, is just counting the cost of control. A lot of times we don’t do that. All we think about is the payoff. And I think sometimes there is a, well, a lot of times there’s a payoff or control. 

That’s what pulls us into it, but we don’t actually recognize the cost. So just to make sure that’s part of our accounting process to recognize how does this control influence my relationship with this person or what does it do? How does it stifle maybe their growth or my growth? How does it train my mind to think or train me to just do life if I move into controlling this versus where other, when I step back and let things unfold. 

Once we recognize the tendency and where that comes up for us. And learning ways to be able to regulate is actively stepping into places of vulnerability so that we build a level of tolerance for experiencing that in our bodies. Because again, this isn’t just about cognitively, oh, I need to respond in this way, in this situation. 

It’s actually, there’s a lot more going on than us just fixing it in our head, but actually living it. And so actively. thinking about, okay, how can I step into such and such situation? And use these skills in a way that I can tolerate it in my body and not react in the old ways of, controlling a rigid or the ways that I go to. 

Yeah, that’s very helpful. Um, both of you. Thanks for sharing that. It is always exciting. You take a conversation like this and then you, but like we did, put it through the lens of Jesus and just makes him shine the brighter, doesn’t it? It just thrills me to think of him as a model that he, if we follow him, we will walk this. 

And I think one of the keys that you brothers helped me learn is that it will be in a way that blesses relationships, just like he did in a way that shares power and allows that flourishing to happen outside of myself. And to your point, you know, Kaleb, I’m going to have to endure some unpleasantness inside in which I would imagine Jesus did when he stood as a lamb to the slaughter and didn’t open his mouth. 

Yeah. Amen. Amen. What control he had, right? So, thanks for sharing that here today. Yeah. Thanks for having me. Thanks, each one for listening in. I hope that this helps you and blesses you. Just as Kaleb said, this is a whole spectrum from abuse all the way down to these little things that we tend to control. 

I think we all find ourself on the spectrum with something to learn as it comes to control. May the Lord bless you. 


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