On Control

Over the years, I have found the most acrimonious conflict with MBTI Judgers. I read of Js that they tend to be control freaks. I am very much a Perceiver, which is the opposite to the J temperament, so control is not a big issue with me. But there is one qualification to that, which I suspect gives rise to the problem at hand: I am very authoritarian about God. God has the right to tell me -- and everybody else -- what to do and what not to do. The more I read the Bible, the more I see where God makes demands I must obey. This is not negotiable. I am also (somewhat more slowly) coming to recognize that other people answer to God, not me, so if they get God's commands wrong, that's their problem, not mine. People don't want my help. Being a P helps here; I don't feel any need to control them. I call it a "double standard" where I hold myself to a much higher standard than what I am willing to tolerate in other people. If they are Js, they don't always understand that. They tend to falsely project their own controlling impulses on me.

This is somewhat speculative, but the facts fit. I enter into some kind of (typically but not always business) relationship with the J. Somewhere along the line they begin to recognize that I am pretty compliant (P) -- one went so far as to describe me (incorrectly) as "a very humble person" -- and begin to assert their controlling influence. It mostly works, until they step over the line on something where God has set boundaries. All of a sudden they discover they cannot control me in that area, and they get very hostile. I've seen this over and over. I don't think the other guy(s) realize what is going on. Or if they do, they are very good liars.

One of these guys -- before the terminal confrontation, before he tried to take over control of the project I started and defined -- described me as "a tough negotiator." I didn't realize that, it was not in my categories for seeing things. All I did was determine in advance what I understood was a win-win outcome, that is, in accord with God's Law, and then refused to give ground on the critical elements of it. It helped that I had a higher confidence in the Sovereignty of God than in the importance of any particular negotiated result, so I could afford to walk away from an unacceptable deal. This is all about God being in control, not me. In that particular case somebody else came in later and offered a deal slightly (but not much) better than mine; his offer was accepted, but the long-term viability wasn't there (as I previously had determined). This has happened several times with me: the deal I turned down was the deal I should not have taken. Either I did better elsewhere, or else some other party took what I passed and suffered with it.

Is this about being a good negotiator? Not at all. It is only about being unwilling to compromise God's authority.

Several times in my life I entered into a long-term mentoring relationship with a younger Christian. I don't volunteer for the position. Either they ask for it, or it grows on us. In any case, when they no longer accept my opinion, it's over. I'm thinking of one case where the guy asked for it explicitly. He's a J, perhaps he thought he could control the relationship. Or maybe that observation came later, I don't know. When I started mentioning an area in his life he was unwilling to give over to God, that was the end. But unlike the P I gave similar advice to, he couldn't just walk away. He wanted to control his exit. When I was trying to save the friendship, he was all for ending it; when I finally agreed to end it, he wanted to be my best friend -- with undiminished hostility. We went through three cycles of this before I pulled the plug. In retrospect it was ludicrous. One doesn't control God's Commands, the commands control us (or if we so prefer, not).

So if you're a control freak and you think you want to control Tom Pittman, stay away from matters where God has given instruction. Don't try to dominate my understanding of what God commands unless you are a skilled exegetor of the Bible in original Greek and Hebrew. I am not about to cede God's control of my life to any lesser mortal.

Tom Pittman
2007 October 22