We humans love to be in control, do we not? Think about the small child on grandpa’s lap steering a truck through a field. Oh the excitement to turn that wheel and have a whole vehicle respond! We are control junkies!
But what do we really have control over? We have all seen controlling people. We have all seen controlling relationships. And unless we are blind, what we see in those is not good.
The truth is, control over situations…and more importantly…people...is a complete illusion.
Situations happen. Good ones. Bad ones. Indifferent ones. They just are. We can yell and scream and shake our fist at the sky, but situations still unfold in ways that we have no ability to change, manipulate, or influence. Don’t know what I mean? Talk to a military wife who has packed up her household goods in Hawaii and shipped them off to Virginia, only to be told her husband is being stationed in Rhode Island. It’s me. I’m that wife.
Car accidents happen. People get sick. Water heaters break. Pets die. Friends move away. Churches forget how to be the church. The list is endless. And the truth is, there is not one thing you can do to prevent it.
People are even more complicated. People can give you the illusion of control because they choose to comply. They comply for many reasons. Maybe it’s because they love you. Maybe it’s because they hate conflict. Maybe it’s because they are not their own center of support. There are as many different possible reasons as there are people on earth. But the truth is, at any time those folks can stand up and say “no more” and the season of control is over.
Just think of a three year old. Folks like to talk about terrible twos, but I love those sweet little twos that smile and want to please you. It’s the three year old that has learned to stomp his foot and snarl “no” that is the challenge. It’s in that space that they step into their power to not be controlled. You can put them in their crib for a nap, but you cannot make them sleep. You can put food on their plate, but you cannot force feed them. You can sit them on a toilet, but you can’t make them…..well, you get the point. People are only controlled as long as they allow themselves to be controlled.
As I see it, there are only five things you really have control over.
- Your faith. No matter what is happening around you, you can choose to keep your faith. You can rest secure in the knowledge that all things will work out for your good. No, not your comfort, but for your good. I believe that all situations have the ability (and maybe the purpose) of teaching us a lesson. Therefore, my focus in any situation, is to find the lesson. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism so that I have something to “do” when things are hard, but it works.
- Your reactions. Challenging situations come and go. They are as sure as the sun rising and the Pope being Catholic. The sooner you grasp that concept, the better your life will be. You choose how you respond to anything. I cannot tell you how often I say this to my kids. Recently, while subbing in third grade, I stopped and had a lesson on this with 14 kids who definitely had not mastered it. No matter what happens to you, your power is in your response. Calm, rational responses will diffuse most situations.
- Outside influences. While I know I just said you cannot control challenging situations, you can be wisely aware of the source. If you find that volunteering in the church kitchen always yields a challenging situation, you can remove yourself from that volunteer position. Now, I recommend finding another one where nosey Nancy is not hanging out, but you do not have to continually expose yourself to problematic people.
- Inside influences. A tougher one to grasp, I think, is the influence you have on yourself. If you are like most people, your inner dialog is filled with things you would not utter to your mortal enemy. There are words you say to yourself that you wouldn’t utter in polite company. If you are to be a healthy individual, you simply must change this narrative. Most people have an 80% negative self-talk. We need to get that flipped to 80% healthy.
- Commitments. Often times I see people stressed out and strung out because they have overcommitted. I hate cliches, but the idea that you cannot pour from an empty cup is absolutely true. I was the very definition of this statement. Maybe that’s why I didn’t like it. Either way, I’ve figured out how to say “no” to good things when I know that they will leave me with not enough left for myself and my family. Too many good things is a bad thing.
So there you have it. Five things you have control over. You’ll notice they really all have a root of “YOU” in them. At the end of the day, you are the only thing that you have any control over, and that’s a good thing.