Christian Aspects of Locus of Control



One of the goals of counselling is to facilitate the journey to freedom and shifting the locus of control from external to internal.


                  internal                                            LOCUS of CONTROL                                             external



External control

The position where we are governed by the clamouring voices which may be literally external or "external" voices that are internal i.e. voices that are inside our head.  Literal external voices may be parents, spouse, children, relatives, friends, teachers, pastors, members of the congregation (to pastors) etc.  Some of these voices may also be inside our head long after these people have ceased to exist or moved away and may be part of the Critical Parent ego state.


Where locus of control is completely external (down one end of the spectrum), we are not free to choose.  At this position we respond to needs because we have to, and the only way of not responding is to distance ourselves in some way e.g. withdrawal, depression, getting sick, overdosing, suicide, and possibly criminal behaviour e.g.shoplifting.


Down this end of the spectrum, we often perceive God to also be controlling.  This can be aggravated by rigid church structures in which church elders are perceived as being controlling and when the message of the church majors on aspects of fear.


Internal control 

This is when we are not bound by the voices but are free to choose.  We are free to look at the options and consequences of our actions, being able to see the situation as it really is.  It implies a healthy degree of awareness of self and of all that is going on, and freedom of choice cannot be exercised without awareness.  This position implies integration of various aspects of the personality and ego states, autonomy and possibly "self-actualisation" whatever that means.


In this position we are free;  free to love and free to hate;  free to love and serve God and free to reject God consciously (at the other end of the scale perhaps the person is more likely to reject God at a more primitive and subconscious level).  We are free to reach out in love and meet people at their point of need, but also free to say no when that is important for the other's growth.  We are also free to take our place in society as autonomous and responsible individuals with responsibility to community and society.  We are also free to be selfish,  to exert control over other people and become part of their external source of control and forcing their locus to the external end of the spectrum.


In our relationship to God, we are free to submit to God but also free to reject Him and ultimately say  "I am my own god."


Control might then be seen to be perhaps the root evil.  In rejecting God we might say "I am in control of my own life and no one else is going to be, including God."  In relationship to the world, the evil person seeking power (through money, sex, property, arms) also seeks to control others.


Having our locus of control as being internal is not intrinsically evil.  It simply allows choice.


For the Christian, counselling aims to facilitate the move to freedom and also to encourage and facilitate the voluntary surrender of that freedom to God.


This brings us back to the "old fashioned" gospel message: God's way is for us to lose ourselves, to become voluntary bondslaves and to walk the way of sacrifice along the Calvary Road carrying our cross.  This is to be the path for all Christian people and results in us being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.  It is a path of humility and contriteness.  God will take us along the path to Christ-likeness whether we like it or not, but it would be so much better to do this from a point of willingness and love rather than being made to, the latter being much more painful.


It means submitting our will to God when it is most difficult; surrendering what we most desire even when it hurts;  losing ourselves for His sake and the gospel; seeking first the Kingdom of God;  submitting our new-found sense of control to God;  to give up our new freedom voluntarily;  to submit our new sense of self esteem (in His image) to God in humility and contriteness;  as we "find ourselves" anew, to "lose ourselves" for the sake of the Kingdom; and as we develop new skills (by his grace) to rely even more on the guidance and wisdom given by the Holy Spirit;  and instead of saying "I am the captain of my soul" to say " God is the captain of my soul".


The amazing paradox of this total submission of our control to God is that he gives more back!  More self control, more freedom, more self-esteem (in His image), more "finding of ourselves" and more skills  and wisdom.


But it is a walk and a way in which we must always be on guard, lest in thinking we stand, we fall.  Beware of the devil as a roaring lion waiting to devour.  Beware of the thought, as God continues to give us control, of being able to "do it ourselves".  May we all be totally aware of the risks involved and therefore even more totally dependent on God, recognising our own weakness and innate sinfulness and that we will not be delivered from having divided hearts until we are with Him.  This is my prayer for myself and for all who read this.  Amen.




Lachlan Dunjey

April 1995


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