Joel Osteen - Breaking Control
I want to talk to you today about Breaking Control. It's easy to go through life doing things out of guilt and pressure: a relative will get upset if we don't show up every time they want, a friend expects us to meet every demand or they'll get their feelings hurt. People use control and manipulation to get their way. It doesn't mean they're a bad person, sometimes they don't even know they're doing it. They expect us to perform and be there every time they call, and put our life on hold, and make sure that they're taken care of. If not, they get sour, try to make you feel guilty, "Why weren't you here"? If we're not careful we'll take home this false sense of responsibility, thinking that it's our job to keep them fixed, we have to keep them happy, keep them encouraged, keep them entertained.
But here's the key: you are not responsible for other people's happiness, you are responsible for your own happiness. Take that pressure off. Some people don't want to be happy, they won't deal with their issues, they won't forgive, they won't keep a good attitude. It's much easier for them to rely on you. If you continue giving in, you'll not only not have the time and energy for your dreams, but you're enabling their dysfunction. As long as they have you, they don't have to change. You have to set some boundaries. You can be nice, you can be loving, but you have to be strong enough to say, "No, I can't come running every time you call. No, I'm not going to let you dump all your problems on me and expect me to solve them". Here's the biggest one, "I'm not going to feel guilty if I can't meet all your demands. Not going to live down on myself, because I can't perform up to your standards".
Without healthy boundaries we won't have healthy relationships. "Well, Joel, what if they get their feelings hurt"? What if you miss your destiny? "What if they get upset and don't speak to me anymore"? God just answered your prayer, say "Thank you Jesus". Seriously, life is too short to go through it being controlled, doing things out of guilt thinking. "If we don't, we'll fall out of their good grace", that's not a friendship, that's manipulation. They're not interested in you, they're interested in what you can do for them. A true friend doesn't get upset when you say, "No". They don't try to pressure you and make you feel guilty so you do what they want.
When my father's past and I stepped to minister, some of our pastor friends asked me to come speak for them. I was just learning how to minister, it was taking all my time and energy to speak here on the weekends, plus we had a three-month-old baby. And I told them that I was honored, but wasn't able to at the time. They all understood except this one man. He reminded me how he had supported my father, how he always been to our conferences, and how loyal he had been, seems like I could make an exception. All this pressure, this guilt, "If you don't do it, you're going to be disappointing me. What a great let down. What a lack of loyalty". I felt bad about it for about 20 seconds, but I also realized that wasn't a friend, that was a controller. He didn't care about me, he cared about how could help him. Just as strong as he was to me, I was that strong going back to him.
If you're being controlled, it's not the other person's fault, it's your fault. You have to put your foot down and say, "I'm sorry, but I'm not going to jump every time you call. Not going to be able to meet all of your demands". He got upset, he didn't understand, but instead of letting them make you unhappy, why don't you let them be unhappy? If they can't handle it, that's not your problem. Don't take on that false sense of responsibility, thinking you have to please everyone, rescue everyone, keep them encouraged. You're not their savior, we already have a Savior. All that's going to do is wear you out. Take the pressure off, be respectful, be nice, but be firm. Learn to say, "No, I can't do that".
Quit letting people call you all hours of the night and day and get you stirred up, expect you to solve all their problems. You have enough problems. Next time they call, that's why God created voicemail. If they can't get you a few times, maybe they'll go to God, maybe they'll start dealing with issues, maybe they'll recognize you're not the savior. But as long as you come running every time, you'll become a crutch. That's a codependent relationship. They'll go their whole life depending on you. That's not only going to limit your potential, but it's keeping them from getting whole and stepping up to who they were created to be. Do them a favor and break free from that control.
I talked to a lady that was raised in a very negative environment. From the time she was a little girl her mother was always blaming her for everything that went wrong. Anytime she'd have a bad day or some kind of setback it was always this girl's fault. She grew up with this guilt and shame, feeling like she was responsible to keep her mother happy, fix her problems. And this mother was harsh and abusive. She had issues she hadn't dealt with. When people are hurting, when they have bitterness, anger and insecurity, often that pain comes out like poison on others. Doesn't have anything to do with you, wasn't your fault, it's just pain they have bottled up that's being released. They haven't dealt with it properly.
She would tell her daughter how she wasn't going to amount to anything, how unattractive she was and how she was the reason they had so many problems. She used all this guilt, shame and fear to control her daughter. Well, now the daughter is a grown woman, in her 40s, but nothing has changed. The mother still calls and berates her, tells her about her problems, puts all these demands on her, "You need to pay these bills, take me to the store, fix this problem at the house". 40 years later this daughter is still being controlled. She didn't know any better. She'd lived her whole life with this controlling spirit, feeling responsible to try to help her mother.
But some people don't want to get help, they like the attention that it brings them. They'll use it to manipulate and make you feel guilty where they can control you. Don't take that bait. Be respectful, but you're not responsible for their happiness. This daughter was so distraught, so confused, she thought, "Maybe I am a bad person". She asked her husband, "Why did I cause all these problems"? Was affecting her mental health and her reasoning. The enemy loves to use all that guilt and shame to try to destroy your self-worth and your sense of value, make you feel like you're the one to blame. Don't believe those lies, there is nothing wrong with you. You are made in the image of God. You are a masterpiece, healthy, whole, beautiful, talented, one of a kind.
One day this daughter heard what we were talking about, how you're not supposed to live controlled by people, and how it's not your responsibility to keep everyone happy, and how you have to put up boundaries to keep yourself healthy and whole. She decided to make a change. She told her mother that she loved her, but that she couldn't meet all those demands. She was going to care for her, but she wasn't going to be able to do all she had done in the past. The mother got upset, went off on her and told her what a terrible daughter she was again, tried to guilt her and shame her. This time the daughter let it go in one ear and out the other. She had spent years listening to how bad she was, how it was her fault, how she wasn't attractive.
You have to come to that point where you say, "Enough is enough. I am breaking free from this bondage, from these lies, from this dysfunction". You are not supposed to be a doormat for people to walk all over, control you, demean you, make you feel like you're not good enough. God didn't create you to be in a toxic relationship, berated, look down on, abused, manipulated. They may not change, they like having you as their pawn, you have to be the one to change, you have to rise up. That's why God has you hearing this today, it's a day of freedom, a day of breakthrough, a day where those controlling, manipulating spirits are being broken. That door is open, but you have to walk out of it.
That's what this daughter did. She told me how she felt all this pressure lift off of her, all this heaviness. She said, "I have not felt this kind of freedom, this kind of peace my whole life". What's interesting is the mother is still the same: angry, bitter, upset, blaming her daughter, but this daughter is enjoying her life. Are you trying to keep someone happy that's never going to be happy? Do you have this false sense of responsibility that you have to sacrifice your happiness in order to fix this other person? Take that pressure off, that's not your job. Your first priority is to take care of you. Keep yourself healthy, whole and free.
This is especially hard when it's someone close to you, someone you love, a family member, a relative. Always be kind, but you have to be strong. If this daughter had not made a change, she would have gone another 20 years depressed, overwhelmed, guilty, feeling wrong on the inside. All because someone was putting unrealistic demands on her. If you're going to break a controlling spirit, you're going to have to be determined. Because when you don't do what you've been doing, what they expect, they'll have a fit, get upset, try to shame you, tell you all they've done for you, how could you not be there for them. Don't buy into that, you have a destiny to fulfill. God has given you an assignment.
The enemy will use control, manipulation, guilt, shame, try to keep you from your purpose. It's time to break free. You have to put your foot down and say, "I love you, but I'm not going to let you control me. I love you, but I'm not going to sacrifice my happiness to try to keep you happy. Not going to come rescue you every time. Not going to be available for every call. Not going to feel guilty because I can't meet all of your demands". That's not being selfish, that's being responsible with the gift God has given you. He didn't create you to be controlled.
Yes, help others. Of course, be good to people, but don't let them control you. If they want to accept you unless you perform up to their standards, meet all their expectations, no big deal, move on and God will give you some real friends. That's not a friend, that's a manipulator. You don't need them for your destiny. The sooner you move forward, the better you'll be. Don't waste time trying to play up to people, win them over. "If you do good enough, they'll let you in their group, they'll approve you". No, if they don't recognize the gift that you are, you need to go somewhere else.
You don't have to convince people what you have to offer: work hard enough, hoping they'll like you, maybe they'll show you a favor. That's letting them control you. God has people he's already lined up for you that will celebrate you, approve you, think that you're awesome. But until you get rid of the wrong people, you'll never meet the right people. Until you get rid of those jerks, I mean those controllers, you will never meet the divine connections. If you're being controlled and manipulated, that's taking your valuable time and energy. You need to do like this daughter: recognize what's happening, make a change, break that controlling spirit. Don't go the next 20 years letting that take your joy, keep you from the amazing future that God has for you.
This is what David had to do in the scripture. His brothers were jealous of him, they could sense the favor on his life, and when he took lunch out to them when they were on the battlefield, one of his brothers belittled him, questioned his motives. "What are you doing out here, David? Just trying to show off? What have you done with those few sheep you're supposed to be taken care of"? They were trying to keep David in their box, make them into who they wanted him to be: small, insignificant, ordinary. David could have tried to play up to them, "But I have to win them over, get them to like me and do whatever they want, meet all their demands".
If he would have let them control him, being worried about what they thought, "Will they accept me? Will I find their good grace" he would have never fulfilled his purpose. David had a boundary up. His attitude was, "They don't dictate my self-worth. I don't need their approval to feel good about who I am. I want to run my race, focus on my goals. Whether they like me or not does not determine my destiny". He didn't come under that spirit of control and manipulation. He could have felt guilty. I'm sure thoughts were whispering, "Come on, David, this is your family. You should do what they ask. You need to make sure they accept you".
But just because someone is kin to you, doesn't mean they're connected to you. Sometimes people closest to you can't see what God put on your life. They won't accept the favor, the blessing, they'll get jealous, try to belittle you, leave you out. It's tempting to want to prove to them who we are, spend our time and energy trying to convince them to like us. If you fall into that trap, you'll be end up being controlled and manipulated by what they want. You have to do like David: be at peace with who's not at peace with you, be okay with who doesn't accept you. If you needed them for your destiny they would be for you. Take the high road, be kind, but don't spend your energy trying to convince them who you are.
Years ago there was this man I knew from school, we had the same group of friends. And anytime he had a problem, something dealing with a relationship, he would look to me to correct it. Every couple of weeks I would get a text. It was always in an emergency, "This has happened, it's not right, I'm upset, you need to figure it out". For some reason I took this responsibility to become his personal problem solver. I'm nice, my personality is a peacemaker, I want to keep everyone happy. So I dropped what I was doing and go to work, I got to fix this, and straighten out this, convince this person. I'd get one thing solved and a week later he'd call back more upset, "So and so said this, if this happens again I'm going to do this", and I thought, "Oh, man this is bad, I got to get right on this".
I lived on the edge, just waiting for the next text, the next crisis. Get one thing worked out, but it would never be enough. It was always something he was unhappy about. When I would see his name come up on my phone, a text, a call my heart would sink, I dreaded it. This went on for two years. Be aware of high maintenance people. High maintenance people are almost always controllers, always having an emergency, they blow everything out of proportion, create all this drama. If you don't have a boundary up, they'll pull you into that drama. All that is it's a distraction from your purpose. You're carrying all this weight and pressure, trying to fix things that don't have anything to do with you, trying to appease someone that doesn't have your best interest at heart.
One day I realized what I'm telling you, that that was a controlling spirit. I was doing it out of guilt, "I can't let him down, what will he think? He may get upset, he may not be my friend". All this pressure trying to keep him happy, and at the same time I wasn't happy. I was sacrificing my joy, my peace, my emotional well-being to please him. I did what I'm asking you to do. The next time he called I was respectful, but I said, "I'm so sorry, but I can't help you this time. My plate is full. I have commitments, you're going to have to work this out". You would have thought I took his wife and children. He got upset, angry, told me how I wasn't a friend and how could I let him down. The funny thing is that didn't bother me at all. I thought I'd feel bad, wrong, been so hard, but it was just the opposite. I felt peace, I felt joy, I felt relieved. I hung up the phone, went and played with my children, laughed with Victoria, had a fun time with my family.
Instead of me being unhappy, I decided to let him be unhappy. Maybe it's time for you to be happy and let that other person be unhappy. You cannot keep everyone fixed. Don't be guilted into that false sense of responsibility. I'm not saying to not help others: be kind, be giving, but don't live under a controlling spirit. People will take as much as you allow. He tried to guilt me, shame me, "Not loyal, not a friend". I knew the only way to break that controlling spirit was to be strong. I quit responding to his text, I didn't answer the phone. I'm the nicest guy, I'll do anything for you. For me to do that that was a miracle, but if I had not done it I'd still be dealing with it.
There are controlling spirits that want to keep you from your purpose, to where you waste your valuable time on things that are not a part of your destiny. Trying to keep someone happy, letting guilt and manipulation, keep you where you're not supposed to be. Why don't you break free? Those things that you don't feel good about, ask yourself why are you doing it? Is it guilt? "What are they going to think? They expect me to do it. I hope to win their favor". Those are all signs of control and manipulation.
Genesis chapter 12, God told Abraham to leave his relatives, leave his father's house and go to a land that he would show him. God promised he would bless him in a great way. Abraham left, he was being obedient, but he took his nephew Lot and all of his family and his herds. God just specifically told him to leave his relatives. I can imagine Abraham thought, "I can't leave Lot, he may get his feelings hurt, he may not understand". He felt responsible to keep Lot happy, take care of his family, make sure they were okay. Abraham had good intentions, but it wasn't what God called him to do.
And sometimes like Abraham we're doing things because we're good-hearted. We want to help this relative, we need to put our dream on hold to take care of this friend. This co-worker's struggling, so we sacrifice our goals to be good to someone else. But your dream has an expiration date. Your assignment isn't going to last forever. There are windows of opportunities that God presents us with. It is not selfish to run your race. You can't help everyone, you can't fix every problem, you can't keep all your family and friends happy. We should always be good to people, but you have to know your assignment so you don't get distracted, taking responsibility for something that you're not responsible for.
You end up taking Lot, it's a good cause, but that's not what you're assigned to do. Abraham and Lot arrived at their new property, it was beautiful, they were excited, the problem was: with all their flocks and all their herds the land wasn't big enough to sustain them both. Their shepherds started arguing, they were strife and contention, this big mess. Could have all been avoided if Abraham would have left who God told him to leave.
When we hang on to things that God tells us to leave, it always causes problems. And sometimes we won't walk away from a relationship even though we know it's not good for us. We know we're being controlled, we know they're not treating us with respect, they don't value who we are, but we keep thinking we'll change their mind. The longer you stay, the more difficult it's going to be. The more struggle, the more frustration. When we hang on to Lot, the problem is: there's no blessing on what God told us to leave. There's no grace on what we were supposed to walk away from.
And one reason we don't want to leave Lot is we think we won't have any friends, we'll be lonely, we'll never meet anyone. You may be lonely for a season, but God will bring you new friends, better friends, friends that push you up and not pull you down, friends that bring out the best and cause you to blossom. Not people that hinder you and cause you to swing back.
Is God asking you to leave Lot, but you keep making excuses, taking him with you? Lot may be the people at work that sit around at lunch and gossip, talk bad about the company. Why don't you eat somewhere else? You can't reach your destiny hanging around people like that. Lot may be that friend that causes you to compromise. That neighbor that brings out the worst in you. That cousin that's not going anywhere. You need people in your life that inspire you, people that cause you to dream bigger, people that honor God, that love their family, that treat their spouse with respect. People that are going places, making a difference, setting new standards.
If you won't separate yourself from unhealthy relationships, from people you know are not good for you, that's where you'll get stuck. God has something better, the problem is: you still have a Lot. That's where there's conflict, struggle, mediocrity. Do yourself a favor: get rid of Lot. There's a calling on your life, an assignment that only you can accomplish. You cannot reach it with critical, jealous, bitter, controlling people. Could it be that you are one friendship away from going to a new level? If you'll just get rid a Lot, you'll see new doors open, greater favor, relationships better than you've ever imagined.
Because the land couldn't sustain them both, they had to separate. Abraham didn't leave Lot when God first told him to, but God always gets his way. Sooner or later, Lot is going to go. They went their separate ways. Lot and all of his family got captured by bandits, more trouble. Abraham had to go rescue Lot. He spent all this time and energy fighting battles he would have never had to fight if he had just left Lot in the first place.
Paul said in first Corinthians 9:19, "I am free in every way from anyone's control". That's my prayer for you, that you're not going to live controlled by people, manipulated into doing things out of guilt, thinking you're responsible to keep everyone happy. But that you will live your life free. Now, do your part and put some boundaries up. Quit act rescuing to everyone's demands, thinking you may hurt their feelings. Remember, if someone is controlling you, it's not their fault, it's yours. You have to take action. Don't go the next 20 years weighed down in unhealthy relationships, toxic relationships, giving into unrealistic demands. It's time to break free.
Today can be a turning point. You have a destiny to fulfill. God is counting on you to take your family to a new level. Get focused, get free, and get ready. If you'll do this, I believe and declare: that spirit of control and manipulation is being broken right now. You're going to have a new grace, a new boldness, so step up to who you were created to be. Greater favor is coming, new relationships, new opportunities, the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus name. And if you receive it, can you say amen? Amen! I receive it as well!