How I Fight Bossiness

One my my continual needs for self-control comes from being the oldest of 10 children and then 35+ years of mothering. I feel very comfortable telling people what to do, speaking as if I know what’s best. Others call it bossy. My fight for self-control in this area has two parts—reminding myself who God is and then preaching that to myself.

I fight bossiness by reminding myself that God is God and I’m not. So however convinced I am of the best course for someone else, I might be wrong. (When I forget to remind myself, God graciously does it by proving me wrong.)

I must say, the older I am, the more young people there are who think I might have some wisdom. What comes most naturally is to say, “You ought to...” Instead, I try to force myself—even correcting myself mid-sentence, if necessary—to couch advice in phrases like, “You might think about...” or “If I were in your place, I think I might..." or “What happens if you...?”

The hardest time to bite my tongue, though, is with my husband, not because he needs me to tell him what to do, but because I think he does. In those cases, I remind myself, “He is an adult. He doesn’t need me to tell him how to..." Most often this is with insignificant things like packing the car trunk for vacation. When it’s larger decisions, we talk a lot and pray together. But then if the decision is not what I would have chosen, I try to say to myself, “Who’s to say that I’m right and he’s wrong? If things go badly, even really badly, it’s not the end of the world. If things go well, then God has taught me something new through my husband.”

I’m not all-wise and omniscient. Only God is. It’s a relief not to have to be God.

Noël Piper (@noelpiper) is wife of John Piper, mother of five, and grandmother of twelve. She is author of Treasuring God in Our Traditions.