I’m a recovering control addict. I’ll admit it…now.
A significant portion of my life has been based on my ability and need to control my environment. What I mean by that is I wanted things to be in order: I wanted my house to be in order. I wanted my garage to be in order, I wanted my finances to be in order, I wanted my wife and kids, of course, to be in order. By, “in order,” of course, I meant, “MY version of order.”
Thank God, the other day I had a real epiphany, which I believe will help me break me free of my controlling ways. I was reading Loving Your Spouse When You Feel Like Walking Away: Real Help for Desperate Hearts in Difficult Marriages by Dr. Gary Chapman, where he listed six things that caused me to pause and give some serious thought to my life:
1) I am responsible for my own attitude.
2) My attitude affects my actions.
3) I cannot change others, but I can influence others.
4) My emotions do not control my actions.
5) Admitting my imperfections does not mean that I’m a failure.
6) Love is the most powerful weapon for good in the world.
I could go on about all of these excellent points he made, but the one I’ve recently been pondering is number 3:
I cannot change others, but I can influence others.
For so long, I’ve been trying to control both the environment and the people around me. Yet, I didn’t realize that I actually had a control problem. For some reason, I just thought that things were supposed to occur and people were supposed to behave in accordance to my thoughts and expectations. Boy, was I wrong.
The truth is, none of us have any real control over anything.
Think about it.
What do you really have control over?
- Your body. Not really. You can contract some debilitating illness or be in an accident that causes you to lose control of your body’s basic functionality.
- Your finances. Nope. You might be significantly wealthy or have a lot of possessions (i.e. cars, houses, blah, blah, blah), but the economy can take a downturn or you might get into an accident that requires you to spend all that mullah, and then, boom! You’ve lost all that wealth.
- Your image. Hardly. People’s perception of you and who you are can change at the drop of a dime. If you just say one thing that others perceive as unkind, unequal, or untrue, you’ve essentially damaged your image or reputation for perhaps a lifetime.
- Your thoughts. Wrong again. As you age, you begin to forget things. Some people live with dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, or mental illness which interfere with the ability to control one’s thoughts.
- Your attitude and words. I’m willing to agree with this to a point. How we respond to people and circumstances can be controlled within certain limitations. Once again, mental illness or some other disease could wreak havoc on one’s mind and remove the ability to control one’s own attitude or words.
There’s so much that we can’t control. So why bother trying at all?
In my circumstance, I thought that if I could control my environment or people around me, life would be ideal, or at least easier. But really what I’ve been doing is pushing people away with my dogmatic ways. I’ve appeared angry, stubborn, worried, unhappy, unkind and above all, unloving. And, if I think about it, yes, I truly have been all of those things, because I had convinced myself that controlling circumstances would lead to happiness and fulfillment. At least for me.
How Wrong I’ve Been
Perhaps that’s why the Sermon on the Mount, found in the Good Word, provides so much insight into the human condition. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus talks about not worrying.
Through these verses, He encourages the listener not to worry so much about things such as food or material possessions. Because, really, worry is a by-product of control. Worry is directly linked to the lack of control over circumstances or people.
This inherent connection between worry and control has somehow eluded me for decades.
Now I want the dependency on being in control to be broken. I want to be free of this debilitating character flaw and to accept that the idea that being “in control” is really a lie. It’s a lie that creates the illusion that if you and I could just control our circumstances or the people around us, life would be better.
No, it wouldn’t. Because our desire for control leads us to be miserable, lonely people, and we create an environment for those around us to potentially feel the same way.
Finally, as a Christian, when I vie to control my life’s circumstances, and the ones of those around me, what I’m really saying is that I don’t trust the Creator. Lacking trust leads to the diminishment of the key tenets to my belief system which is comprised of faith, hope, and love.
Funny enough (not in a ha-ha kind away, but in a how fortuitous kind of way), while I was writing this article, I read an about comedian Kevin Hart, on his recovery from his near-death experience from a recent vehicle accident.
In a video he posted on his recovery, Kevin states, “Basically what you realize is that you’re not in control. No matter how much you think you’re in control, you’re not in control. At the end of the day, it can be all over.”
Looks like Kevin and I are in the same boat. Once you realize how little control we have over life’s circumstance, the more we can learn to appreciate life and people for what and who they really are: A gift.
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