The problem is, it also leaves you wanting more, and in the end, your life ends up becoming a mess that spills over all of those around you.
It certainly does feel good to be in control of a situation, and I’m not saying that in and of itself, that being “in control” is a bad thing. But what I am saying is that so often, we grip tightly to it, and then when circumstances come washing in like a gentle wave, or even like a tsunami, we find out little these sand castles we’ve sculpted really measure up to the driving forces of life.
You cannot control everything. You cannot prevent a deer from running in front of your car. You cannot make another person feel anything if they don’t want to feel it. You cannot force your child to behave. (You can teach them the right way to behave, and you can correct them when they don’t) You cannot “will” yourself to get in shape. (You’ve got to work for it)
From a spiritual perspective, I think pride (or vanity – the bad kind) is the source of this addiction to control. We build ourselves up in our own minds, and we say, “I am better. I am smarter. I am so awesome, that only my answers and my solutions, and my way of doing things is the one that matters.”
Trust me. I know this from experience. Trying to control others, trying to control situations, trying to be “in control” in general will ULTIMATELY leave you disappointed, angry, frustrated, lonely, worn out, hollow, empty, and in the kind of place where you’re life is so vulnerable – that the same circumstances that frustrated you because you were out of control, will continue to erode the fragile foundations on which you’ve built your sand castle.
I do not have “twelve steps” to control-freak recovery. But I do have a few things that I think each of us needs to acknowledge and embrace if we plan to live life to the full and overcome this addiction.
1. Let God be in control. Here’s the deal. You may not believe, and I won’t condemn you for that. I’ll just pray that you and God can work things out. But it’s been my experience that by yielding control to the One that made me, I find that those overwhelming circumstances aren’t that overwhelming.
2. Pray. Not only yield control of your life to God, but keep in touch with Him. I believe He directs and guides of each of us if we are willing to listen. Sometimes in tangible, clear ways, and sometimes in gently circumstantial nudges. The Bible says, “You have not because you ask not.” and it also says that anyone who lacks wisdom can ask for it, and God will give it freely.
3. Lead. Control DOES NOT EQUAL Leadership. This is an important equation. We are all in some position of leadership – whether we are parents, or even the quiet kid that sits at the back of the classroom. John Maxwell says, “Leadership is Influence” – and we ALL are an influencer to someone. Instead of trying to CONTROL people – focus on influencing them. You can’t change someone’s mind. You can’t force someone to do something. But you can demonstrate a good example. You can offer thoughtful and loving advice. You can be the kind of person that people look up to. Don’t waste another second getting your panties in a knot because people don’t do things your way. Instead, do your way well. You’ll be surprised who notices and who gets in step alongside you.
When it comes to parenting, sure – you do set the rules of your house. Your leadership in the home is one place that seems to feel like you’ve got more control than others. But keep that mindset in check. Set good fair rules and boundaries. (We will go to church together. We will eat dinner together. You will not speak to your parents in a disrespectful tone. You will be in bed by 11.) and then set fair and reasonable consequences when those rules are broken. ( You will get grounded if you do X, Y, or Z) Heck. Write them down if it helps. Also – I’ve not really done this yet, but in studying leadership – I’ve read many times that people get behind vision. Have a good clear vision, and people will follow it. For your family, why not craft a vision statement. Write out what you want your family to be, discuss it with your family, and post it on the wall. It’s easier to get behind a vision you agree with than to get behind a person you don’t. So cast a vision for your family.
4. Respect. We’ve talked about leading. Sometimes you need to follow. Certainly, a person leading you into an immoral situation, or one that goes against your vision is someone you should not follow. Sometimes, you just find yourself in disagreement with the boss, or the spouse, or the pastor. Instead of organizing a coup to overthrow them – or instead of spreading gossip about them at the watercooler, it might be time to cut ties and part ways. Or it might be time for you to mature, and adjust your position and priorities and follow them.
But no matter which path you take, it goes best when done with respect and honor.
5. Love. If you’re going to make a mistake, err on the side of love. That way – instead of trying to change people – let them be who they are (or even who they think they are.) Sometimes love tells a person they have spinach in their teeth. But most of the time, love builds people up. Make that a priority. Don’t waste your time trying to make other people think the way you do.
6. Mow your own backyard. Certainly, SELF-CONTROL is something we should have control over. We should be able to tell ourselves NO to that extra slice of pie, or that cigarette, or that temper-tantrum. It’s not always easy, and it takes work.
I contend that people who struggle MOST with self-control tend to try to control the people and circumstances around them. What if we put that in the decanter, let it chill, and focused on the one person we CAN do something about? (ME)