“Why am I so controlling?” Tim Kimmel
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Tim KimmelDr. Tim Kimmel is the founder and Executive Director of Family Matters, whose goal is to see families transformed by God’s grace into instruments of reformation and restoration. Tim and Family Matters conduct the Grace Based Parenting Conference across the country on the unique pressures that confront members of today's families. He and his wife, Darcy, also team up with other organizations such as FamilyLife, Focus on the Family and MOPS to build strong families. With his dry wit and engag...more
Ever wondered, “Why am I so controlling?” Author Tim Kimmel offers five essential reasons we control and truths to set ourselves (and others) free at last.
“Why am I so controlling?” Tim Kimmel
Tim: If love is a commitment of my will to your needs and best interest regardless of the cost, then it is not in your needs and best interest to be doing something that is toxic to a relationship. If you had your choice of being wounded or kissed, which would you choose?
Well, the Bible makes a distinction. It says it depends on who’s doing the wounding and who’s doing the kissing. Proverbs says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” So, if we say we love our spouse, and we’re letting them continue in a pattern that is just sucking the life out of our love story, how is that love?
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: Here’s a question for you: do you think I’m a high-controlling person?
Dave: Do you think I’m a controlling person?
Ann: I don’t.
Dave: At all? Ever? Never?
Ann: Maybe when you drive, or I’m driving and you’re trying to critique me. [Laughter]
Dave: I didn’t see that one coming! [Laughter] You know what, you are exactly right. I am the worst!
Ann: I don’t even want to drive when you’re in the car, because I think, “Do I want to drive and have him just critique me the whole time?”
Dave: I mean, when I get up behind somebody going in the left lane, and they’re not going fast enough—that’s the passing lane—and I get on their bumper, what am I doing? I’m literally trying to control them! Like, “I’m going to teach you a lesson!” Some stranger out of nowhere. I’ve done that!
Ann: I know. I know! I have lived with you for 42 years, and this is true. You’re trying to control every person and teach them how to become a better driver on the road.
Dave: Okay, enough of that! [Laughter] I don’t want to talk about that, because I don’t think I’m that bad; but we’ve got Tim Kimmel back in the studio with us today. I’m not saying you’re a high-control person, but you wrote a book about it.
Dave: Would Darcy say you’re a high-control person?
Tim: Well, I just think there are areas where any of us can be that. But I just try to—because I start each day assuming I’m that, and I just don’t want it to rear its ugly head in me. Look, I’m just as capable of it, of anybody out there, of being a selfish nightmare.
Ann: Is it a sin tendency that we have, that we can all slip into that?
Tim: Yes, absolutely! People who struggle with it are people who are blind to it, and just don’t even want to acknowledge it.
Tim: I think the people that keep it under control are the ones who just, from the beginning, say, “Oh, yes, I’m very capable of that.” Remember, as we talked about in some of the other shows, a lot of it’s just self-preservation.
Tim: You know?
Tim: We’re just trying to look out for the moment. We think this is the right thing. But you all know my wife, Darcy.
Ann: You’ve been married 50 years.
Tim: Yes, 50 years.
Ann: Four kids.
Tim: Yes; and she’s just this wonderful, highly-organized, but you know I’m the risk-taker, and she wants to be more careful. But she knows that one of the things she struggles with is, I come up with a great idea or something, and she just pulls that little needle out and goes, “Kaboom!” [Laughter] [She] blows that thing right out of—with just one little statement.
Dave: “It won’t work, because—”
Tim: “Because,” and it just crushes my spirit! She’ll be like, “Well, I don’t want to do it that way.” At the same time, I don’t want to be in a position where it seems like it’s reckless to her, or it makes her feel inadequate or afraid or anything; but that’s where grace comes to our rescue. If you have a grace-filled marriage, and you want to have relationships with your kids that are grace-filled, then you’re going to treat the people you love the way Jesus treats you. Jesus isn’t reckless with us. He’s good! We want to be good to one another. And I think that would cause us to monitor this.
I want to have a family where the kids actually enjoy having dinner together with their parents and vice-versa. When the kids launch, like ours have done, I want us to still have a love story being written.
Dave: And want to come home!
Tim: That’s one of the things I pray for every day! You know, “Lord, help me write a love story with this woman until the day I take my last breath.”
Ann: Well, your book is called The High Cost of High Control. The subtitle is How to Deal with Powerful Personalities. We’ve been talking about this for a couple days.
Dave: Well, here’s the thing you probably don’t know about us, Tim, and we’ve known you for decades. I think we’ve read almost every book you’ve written.
Dave: You know, sixteen books?
Ann: So good!
Dave: We’ve probably read at least 12 or 13 of them—
Dave: All the way back to Little House on the Freeway, Grace-Based Parenting, Why Christian Kids Rebel. I mean, I can list them through, including this one: The High Cost of High Control. But I’ve got to be honest, when I first picked that one up back in the 90’s, I thought, “I’m going to read a book about other people!” [Laughter] You know, that’s why I [was] reading it. You know, “There are high control people in my life.” And the more I read it, it was like, “Oh. There’s some of that in me.” And we’ve talked about it for a couple days.
But at the end of the book, the last chapter, you have 101 ways to identify and manage a high-controller. So, we thought it might be fun—and we’re not going to do 101 of these, but—to pick a few and just have you make some comments. I’ve got to start with number 29!
Ann: Oh, 29?!
Dave: I think it’s a fun one! Twenty-nine says, “If your parents or in-laws are trying to control your marriage, move to the opposite side of the country for about 50 years.” [Laughter] Obviously, there’s a little humor there!”
Dave: But what’s that all about?
Tim: Well, they’re supposed to be in-laws, but if they don’t keep their high-control tendencies under control, they become out-laws. That’s going to become a liability to your love story; to the marriage. There [have only been] a couple of times where I have recommended, to the couple I’m going to be overseeing their wedding, “I really think you guys need to move out of here; move to another state. Don’t pass on your phone number right away.” [Laughter]
The reason is because I know their parents! I know at least one of their parents is going to be right in the middle of this thing, second-guessing everything, criticizing or whatever; controlling. They’re going to put a strain on this thing in its most fragile state, right out of the blocks. And you know, when it comes to our in-laws, we already have a certain amount of loyalty anyway, because they’re our parents.
Tim: And then, we also have a certain amount of disloyalty, because they might not be our parents; they’re our spouse’s. You know, He made it clear in the Bible, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother.” That also says to the father and mother, “Let them go.”
Tim: But if they don’t—
Dave: I mean, how do you and Darcy approach it now? You’re in-laws.
Dave: You’re parents of your kids who’ve married. How do you approach it with adult kids?
Tim: Probably the hardest thing for grandparents to do, but the most vital thing is, when you see their kids misbehaving and all that stuff [Laughter], zip your mouth shut.
Ann: Yes! And it’s so hard!
Tim: It’s so hard; just shut it.
Ann: Because we’ve gained so much knowledge, and we know so much.
Tim: That’s exactly right.
Ann: And we say nothing.
Tim: Right. And here’s why: when we were—for everybody listening, if you’re young parents, do you want your parents criticizing how you’re raising your kids? And the answer, of course, is “no.”
Tim: So, if we didn’t want it when we were young, raising our kids, I’m sure they don’t want it from us.
Tim: But I think the role of a parent, when it comes to launching your kids, is, you know, when our kids are under our roof, it’s like they’re in our boat. It’s like they’re in our boat, and we’re the captains of that boat. We’re determining where that boat’s going to go, and all that stuff. When it gets in treacherous water or a bad storm, we’re under control of how we’re going to do that.
They’re in their own boat now. What we—we’d do better if we’d move up onto the bluff and become a nice, steady lighthouse, just keeping a steady beam of love and joy and encouragement and grace coming out to them. They can take their reference off that.
Now, let’s say they come to us, and they ask our opinion on something. We always qualify it: “Okay, I’ll give you my opinion, but it’s just that. You can do whatever you want. It’s your life, and you’ll live with whatever you choose; but here’s how I see this. If you want to go for that, fine. If you don’t, it’s not going to change anything in my relationship with you” (so they know that going in).
I think the more we keep our mouth shut in the stuff we should keep our mouth shut on, the more they’re inclined to want to come and say, “What do you think, Dad? Mom? Can you help me on this?”
Dave: I mean, what you’re saying is so wise, and yet, just in my opinion, so few in-law parents of adult children do that!
Dave: Why do we get so involved?
Ann: Because we think we know the answer! We see, “Oh, we have failed, but we made this work,” and “Hey, we’re experts in marriage and family.”
Ann: Tim, if anybody could give a great answer, it’s you and Darcy. And yet you’re humble enough to say, “I’m not going to say anything unless you come and ask.” Even then, I’ve never heard someone say, “And let me just remind you: this is just our opinion.”
Ann: “And if you don’t, we’re still going to love you.”
Ann: I need to take note of that.
Dave: I usually say, “This is my opinion, but this is also God’s opinion as well.” [Laughter]
Tim: You’d like to! [Laughter]
Well, there’s a thing called being a close family, but there’s a thin line between being a close family and an enmeshed family. An enmeshed family becomes very toxic, especially when you’re having other people grafted in through marriage that don’t have any reference point with you. Yet, I’ve seen money become a gigantic liability to the joy of a family, because, you know, the parents have some major money, and they’re enmeshed in it.
In fact, there’s nothing like owing money to put yourself in a position of being controlled. Avoid borrowing money from parents, relatives, and friends. Now, does that mean parents should never help their kids? No, I’m not saying that.
Tim: What Darcy and I try to do with our kids, when it comes to money, is we’re willing to give them a hand up; we’re just not going to give them any handout.
Dave: What’s that mean?
Tim: Well, a hand up means that this help to them, financially, is actually going to enable them to do something even better and more effectively. That’s fine. It’s a hand up because I have confidence, based on their track record, that they’re going to handle it wisely. So, parents can do that!
Tim: Actually, I think if we were all honest with ourselves, people have done that for all of us along the way.
Ann: Oh, yes!
Tim: And it may not be in a financial way, but there are connections—
Ann: And there are no strings attached.
Tim: No strings attached; yes! God does stuff for us all the time with no strings attached. We mishandle stuff—great things He’s done for us—all the time.
Tim: But He still keeps loving us.
Ann: Well, I have one that I wanted to talk about, as we’re talking about the “101 Ways to Identify and Manage a High-Controller.” I was in high school - I was in my senior year, actually, and I decided, for the first time in six years, not to run track. I told my dad. I was going to run track, and I got this really cool pair of Nike tennis shoes; but then I said, “I’m not going to run track this year. I’m tired of it. I’m ready to move on.” And my dad said, “But you bought those tennis shoes.” Actually, he bought them; he bought them for me. I was, generally, paying for a lot of my own things.
Dave: And he was a coach. He coached me in baseball.
Ann: He didn’t coach me in track, though. He said, “You’re going to go out for track!” I said, “No, I really don’t want to. I have another job; I’m really busy; I’m doing some other things; I’m playing tennis.” And he said, “No, you’re going to go out for track.” And I said, “Well, what are you going to do?” He said, “I’m not going to talk to you ever again unless you go out for track.” So, Tim, it was seven days. Every morning, I’d eat breakfast with my dad. He’s super talkative; he never stops talking. He doesn’t talk to me or look at me for seven days.
Finally, on the seventh day, I was like, “You are being a baby. What is happening right now?” He wouldn’t say anything. I said, “Fine! I’ll do it. If you want to control me this way, I’ll do it.” He won! And this is number three of the ways to identify that high-controller: “She’s a controller or he if they choose silence and withdrawal instead of communication.”
Ann: Is that my dad controlling me?
Tim: Yes, that was absolutely.
Ann: And I had no control if he wouldn’t even talk to me about it.
Tim: He was using your love for him to leverage you to get you to do something. Well, that’s not how love is supposed to be. Love is a commitment of my will to your needs and best interest regardless of the cost. That’s love. What that was, was just selfishness. Who knows? He might have had some ego expectations of you—
Tim: —with your sports and everything else.
Ann: But we often don’t think of withdrawal or silence as a controlling method.
Ann: And you’re saying, “Oh, no!”
Tim: Oh, no.
Ann: You might be quiet, but sometimes that’s deadly?
Tim: Very much so; very much so. Or pouting.
Tim: By the way, that was a big problem I had when I got married. [Laughter] When I didn’t get my way, I would pout.
Ann: What did that look like?
Tim: Well, once again, I’m not looking her in the eye; I’m kind of quiet. That would be some withdrawal. I’m there participating, but I’m not.
Ann: Talk about manipulation.
Tim: I’m a verbal person.
Tim: Usually if we’re around, we’ll be visiting, and I would say nothing. Well, she could tell, “He’s upset about something.” But she confronted me on it, and she said, “I won’t let my kids pout. When our kids pout, you know they automatically will not get what they’re trying to get.” [Laughter] “So, it’s not going to work with you either.”
Dave: If somebody’s doing what your dad did—if they’re silent, or if they withdraw, because I can tend to withdraw.
Dave: What should you do? Or what should they have done? How can you help that not happen?
Tim: Well, you’ve got two conditions here; two situations that are tough, because that’s your dad.
Tim: And as a daughter, they can make orders and stuff, and sometimes we just have to do what they’re asking us to do to the best of our ability and grit it out. But it’s not going to come without a price: the high cost of high control. You’ve got to work through stuff.
But here’s why people control us—this is the number one reason why people control us: it’s because we give them permission to. We let them. And I realize that in some certain situations, they’re not going to change. But like that one man who was so overwhelmed with shame, that I was telling you about.
Tim: You know, from his parents? And he never said a word about it. He was just a nightmare to my friends and his father. But he never was able to control me, because I decided early on, I was just not going to let him. He was not going to intimidate me. By the way, he was a very frightening man and a very powerful man, and he could be mean. But I just decided, “I’m not going to take it personally, because this is about an issue with him, and I’m not going to make his issue my issue.”
Well, what happened is that his respect for me went way up, because he didn’t respect any of his own children because they—
Dave: They took it.
Tim: -They just folded.
Ann: So, if you’re in a marriage and, one, that’s happening, maybe we should kind of make that distinction: how do we know if it’s abuse, you know? But then the other—maybe we should hit that first.
Ann: When does it cross the line where this is abuse?
Tim: When we’re talking about control, we’re talking about something that’s irritating and annoying; but usually, you know, you can gut your way through it. Abusive is injury. It’s doing harm.
Dave: Physically, verbally, emotionally; right.
Tim: Yes. For instance, I had a football coach. I played football in high school, and I remember I got the wind knocked completely out of me. I mean, I was lying down flat on the ground in this big game. He yells out, “Kimmel! Are you injured or are you hurt?” And I was just hurt. In other words, I just got the wind knocked out of me.
Dave: You couldn’t say it, because you had no breath.
Tim: I had no breath. And I said, “Coach, I’m hurt!” And you know what he said? He said, “Get up! It’s a contact sport. Everybody’s hurt. You can play this game without getting hurt!” Injured is different.
Tim: Because if I’m injured, I can’t function. So, I think what abuse does is it injures a person; it injures their soul, and their spirit, and their emotional system; their view of themself; their ability to function, many times. And once you’re there, if you don’t get some remedy from that, it’s just going to get really bad—fatal if it’s physical; but it can kill love.
Ann: So, let’s go back to that. Now, we’ve kind of defined what that abuse is, and that’s not healthy. We shouldn’t stay in that situation. We need to get safe.
Tim: Get out, yes.
Ann: But what if we’re in a marriage relationship where now we’re thinking and realizing, “I have been controlled. We’ve been doing this 30 years,” let’s say a woman is saying. “How do I stop that? What does that look like?”
Tim: If love is a commitment of my will to your needs and best interest, regardless of the cost, then it is not in your needs and best interest to be doing something that is toxic to a relationship. So, I’ve got to speak up.
I’ll often ask people this question when there’s some struggle in their life. I say, “If you had your choice of being wounded or kissed, which would you choose?”
Tim: A lot of people say, “Well, I guess kissed!” I say, “Well, the Bible makes a distinction. It says it depends on who’s doing the wounding and who’s doing the kissing. Proverbs says, ‘Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.’”
So, if we say we love our spouse, and we’re letting them continue in a pattern that is just sucking the life out of our love story, how is that love? You say, “Well, I just don’t like conflict!” I don’t want to be around anybody who likes conflict! None of us like conflict! But it’s part of relational-building. It’s like when Darcy says, “I’m sorry, but this pouting is just not going to work. . .”
Ann: So, that’s what she said to you?
Tim: Oh, absolutely!
Tim: “This pouting”—she said, “We don’t tolerate this with our kids. When our kids pout, we automatically guarantee them they’re not going to get what they want.” [Laughter] “’This is not how—that’s not how—you handle it.’ Well, I’m not going to do that with you either.” “Well, okay!”
But she was doing it out of love. By the way, she’s a quiet, easygoing—she’s not abrasive; she’s not confrontive.
Ann: She’s amazing. She’s wonderful to be around!
Tim: She’s a sweet lady, but there’s a point in the love where she said, “If I don’t say this, first of all, it’s going to hurt our marriage, but also, it’s going to hurt you.” So, I think we have to be honest with ourselves. That’s the other thing: if we want to find the biggest problem that we’re dealing with, and then you give it time. The best thing is, go in your bathroom and look in the mirror. [Laughter]
Ann: I knew you’d say that.
Tim: You know, I shave the face of my biggest problem every day! [Laughter] And once again, that is not a bad self-image. That’s how health comes! That’s humility that says, “I recognize I’ve got issues. I don’t want them to own me. I certainly don’t want to harm my kids with it.” But then, we go to a Savior who knows all about that. You know, when I think of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, and how, you know, when you wash somebody’s feet, you can’t even look eye-to-eye with them.
Ann: Can you imagine Him washing Judas’s feet?
Ann: Knowing what was going to happen?
Tim: He gets down, and He does this! He’s below; his eyes are knee-level to them.
Tim: How subservient could you be? And then He gets up, and He puts back on His Rabbi robes.
Ann: This is the Savior and Creator of the world!
Tim: Yes. He puts back on the authority; the robes that show His authority and says, “Now, I want you to do what I just did for you to the people in your life.”
Dave: You know, I was thinking when you talked about Darcy saying, “This pouting thing’s not going to happen,” she was washing your feet.
Tim: Yes, she is!
Dave: In a beautiful way, she is saying, “Let’s do this right.”
Tim: “I love you too much to let this become so much a part of our life that it steals—”
Tim: “—the whole reason we married each other in the first place.”
Ann: And she didn’t resort to name-calling.
Ann: To telling you, “You’re terrible! You’re an idiot,” or whatever. She was doing it out of love, knowing, “We can have better.”
Ann: “We can do this better!”
Dave: And I just know this: Ann’s done this thousands of times in our lives!
Dave: And I’m even thinking about—because I know her dad, and he’s awesome!
Ann: He is awesome.
Dave: He’s now with Jesus. He was my dad. I love him to death, but he could do that, and I saw that. And I now know—I’ve watched Ann, for 42 years in our marriage, not do that.
Dave: If our son said to us, ‘I’m not going out for football”—because it would be football in our house—
Dave: -that would crush me. I would be like, “Oh!” But here’s what I’ve watched her do: she would sit down and do the opposite of what her dad did. She would say, “Tell me what you’re thinking. What’s your process?” I’ve watched you do it!
Dave: It would be, sort of, a washing of feet. It may end up he doesn’t or does; it doesn’t matter. It’s like, “Help me understand this.” There’s no control. There’s grace. I understand that, and it’s the opposite of what she grew up with. So, it’s like, God transforms that! Even if you grew up in high-control, you can become a grace-based person and change the legacy.
Tim: Yes! Here’s the thing: no matter how annoying and even the clear things they do wrong—even the sins they do wrong; it doesn’t mean it’s not going to have consequences, but it is never once going to cost them their relationship with me. Whereas, with control, it’s “your behavior is going to cost you your relationship with me.” See, Jesus doesn’t do that with us. “Whom He loves, He disciplines,” but that’s the difference between, I think, when grace is in place. People’s relationships are highly valued.
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Tim Kimmel on FamilyLife Today. You know, we’d love to send you a copy of Tim Kimmel’s book. It’s called The High Cost of High Control: How to Deal with Powerful Personalities. And we’ve all got powerful personalities in our lives. His book is our “thanks” to you when you partner financially today with us to help more families hear conversations like the one you heard today. You can give online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329. That’s 800-F as in “family,” L as in “life,” and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, the teenage years can seem like the rebellious years, right? Well, tomorrow, Dave and Ann are joined by Paul David Tripp to tell us that, instead of being quick to react, why don’t we wait? Because this is actually an opportunity to build a deeper relationship with your teenager. That’s tomorrow. We hope you’ll join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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