Sunday, November 12, 2006

Control Freaks Can Grow Up

I never knew the true definition of the title, “Control Freak” until I was in charge of something. Suddenly, everything changed. Suddenly, nothing could be done properly unless I was the one at the helm. Suddenly, the word ‘surrender’ made me nervous.

Really nervous.

This story takes us back a few years when my sister, my aunt, and I decided to start publishing our own Christian e-magazine. This is a long and painful story, so I will summarize and spare you the gruesome details. Basically, I was “somehow” appointed editor. I understood that it was my job to pull the magazine together, organize details, process mail, develop our mission statement, and formulate a set of guidelines. It sounded so easy...
Two weeks later, my life hurtled into a brick wall. Maybe I glanced off, maybe the wall toppled over on me – my memory of that time is still a little blurry. All I know is that I had taken on WAY TOO MUCH. I was spending over thirty hours a week trying to file and manage hundreds of email addresses: a nightmare. I was trying to respond to mail, appease the rude, express gratitude to the gracious, make plans to keep people’s interest, design the layout to look professional and easy to read, encourage the other two columnists to meet the deadlines, trying to remind myself that friendships were more important. And this was supposed to be a small-operation thing! Then everything came to a grinding halt.

“I QUIT!” was the only explosion that sounded from the computer desk when the keys stopped rattling and the smoke cleared.

And indeed I did. For all of five days.

What a miserable five days they were too. Here was the problem – our problem, my problem: when I quit, I was selfishly dragging the whole thing down with me. “I quit” meant, hypothetically, “it’s all over”. When the other two involved offered to ‘share the load’ my heart almost stopped beating.

“What’s the password?” they asked, “We’ll add the email addresses, we’ll type commas between addresses from now ‘til Kingdom Come; we’ll put the magazine together”.

Visions of formatting gone awry flashed before my eyes. Three beats short of a heart attack, I hopped back in the pilot’s seat, determined once more, to do everything myself. “Thanks anyway guys, but I think I’ve got everything under control.” (Translation: “No thanks, I’d rather be in control.”)

No man is an island. Eventually I learned that it was OK to accept help from others, hand the reigns to someone else, even if only for a short time. My sanity was spared because of this.
Guys, I am not writing this to show you how I can behave at my worst: I’m trying to say that so many of us have a little of this hidden inside. We believe that things can work out properly only if we are in charge. We would rather drive than take a plane because we trust our hands, not the pilot’s. We paint our own rooms because our friends would do a lousy job. We format our own articles because someone else would do it all wrong.
And my solution is not, “Hang out with some phlegmatics; life will get really easy.” My suggestion is: die to self and be humble (i.e., don’t be so proud and selfish!). Control freaks are not people who are naturally more selfish than others: they are people who succumb to their intrinsic selfishness and...yes...let it take control of them! As the title of this article suggests, control freaks can grow up. They can submit and...yes...even surrender.
When we humble ourselves, then we are lifted up.


RT said...

that's funny! lol. i know the feeling. i like you blog and will check back on it from time to time.

Katie said...

Oh, Jenn, this was wonderful! I loved it. Sooo encouraging!

Mark Pettigrew said...


I decided to look up your name online, after responding to the e-mail you just sent to me. That's how I found this blog of yours.

In my response to your e-mail, I shared my ideas pertaining to a Christian ministry of the arts.

I thought that this particular blog post of yours was applicable to my own project in some respects.

When it comes to my own vision for ministry, I guess that the "control freak" part of me is the part of me that wants to shape the overall direction of the ministry, since I'm an idea guy.

I also have numerous talents which are applicable to the project, and I don't mind doing that work whenever possible or necessary.

I definitely want the overall project to exhibit the highest quality, so I will probably be somewhat picky when assessing the work of other people with whom I work on the project.

Having said all of that, it's precisely because my ideas are so expansive that I know how futile it would be for me to try to do it all. In short, I need HELP!

If that means having to learn to trust that the Lord will bring me the right people who share my vision and who have the talents needed in order to bring that vision to pass, then so be it.

Sometimes, being a good leader means being a good team member who affirms the positive value of the contributions made by all of the other members of the team.

Occasional mistakes are an inevitable part of the process. Fortunately, God doesn't expect perfection. He just expects us to make a strong and conscientious effort to do the best we can do.

Will said...

Wow, what a testimony! And the magazine is incredible by the way! (Three years later, hahaha, i can't believe its been so long!)

Anonymous said...

lol is right. sounds like a mess, but im glad you kept it up and everything. hard work pays off i suppose!

Carson Davis said...

I don't necessarily think theres anytnig wrong with being a control freak, Jen. It sounds like the project got done so well, so quickly BECAUSE of your personality and drive to do it. Some people have an issue with 'control freaks' but you sure don't seem to fit the definition. it just osunds like you knew the porject better then the others and got it done. nothing wrong with that. hey, if I had a team,I'd want you on it. people need leaders these days. if i ever get back to blogging, i'll link you, if that's OK. more people need to read this stuff.

Rhonda S. said...

I'd like to respectfully disagree with Carson. I myself am a control freak and it is not 'ok'. You're right in saying that JENN didn't seem to be much of one, but there are really some people who are serious control freaks and they need to whip themselves back into shape (like...ME!) because one day you turn around and realize your by yourself, you never needed anyone, so they left you alone because you were so capable anyway. Just a thought.