“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.” – Kahlil Gibran
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius
“You cannot control the events or circumstances of your life, but you can control your reactions.” – Caroline Leaf
One of the most fundamental of human desires is our need to be in control. We strive to manipulate outcomes in our favor, influence the behaviors of others to our liking, rule over our circumstances, and call all the shots when it comes to anything that affects our happiness and well-being.
Having control seems to coincide with perceived feelings of comfort and security, but often the things we are attempting to manipulate are far from our ability to directly influence.
In relationships, we have no direct control over how others think and behave, but that doesn’t stop us from trying! To those who are driven by this kind of dominance, it always comes at a tremendous emotional and psychological cost to both the victim and the perpetrator. Attempting to control others is a lose-lose proposition.
All the efforts behind eating right and exercising daily don’t eliminate the possibility of a terminal diagnosis. Dedicated, hard work doesn’t necessarily protect you from losing a good paying job. A safe driving record cannot eliminate the possibility of a devastating accident. Pouring love and support into a relationship doesn’t guarantee that affection, devotion, and encouragement will be reciprocated at all.
The point here I am trying to establish is that even thoughtful, well-intentioned actions and behaviors are limited at best in directly controlling all the circumstances that surround our lives.
Why is it that we attempt to control the things we have no business controlling? Why do we embrace this illusion and work tirelessly to manipulate what often cannot or should not be manipulated?
Currently in your own life, what or who are you attempting to control? What outcomes are you trying to manipulate or change in your favor? Are you struggling to wield your power over matters you are truly powerless to influence?
Here are some things to consider….
Focus on your RESPONSE-ability
As I mentioned earlier, we often attempt to exert our control over things we ultimately have no power over or have no business trying to manipulate. Instead, we need to focus on WHAT WE CAN control: our thoughts, reactions, behaviors, and response to what is going on within our lives. The single thing you have 100% control over is YOU and your RESPONSE-abilities within every aspect of life.
“Why worry about things you can’t control when you can keep yourself busy controlling the things that depend on you?” – John C. Maxwell
“Can you love people and lead them without imposing your will? Can you deal with the most vital matters by letting events take their course? Can you step back from your own mind and thus understand all things? Giving birth and nourishing, having without possessing, acting with no expectations, leading, and not trying to control; This is the supreme virtue.” – Lao Tzu
Controlling our own thoughts and actions can be life-changing! These are your responsibility and yours alone. You have unequivocal and indisputable control over how you behave within a relationship, how you view difficult circumstances, and how you choose to act regardless of the outcome.
I have seen terminally ill folks who are happier and more content than those with tremendous health and vigor. I have witnessed people in need and lack respond to life as if they are lavishly rich and blessed. I have seen those overlooked and unappreciated continue to be loyal and hardworking. I have marveled at those who have been dealt severe, heavy blows in this life and continue to smile, laugh, and persevere. I have observed those who suffered tremendous setbacks but chose to keep taking steps forward. How about you?
How much time and effort are you spending on controlling your RESPONSE-ability to the circumstances and events that surround your own life versus attempting to manipulate their outcomes?
Learning to See Divine Sovereignty in Uncontrollable Things
“I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’” – Isaiah 46:10 NIV
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” – Proverbs 19:21 ESV
“I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the LORD, am the one who does these things.” – Isaiah 45:7 NLT
Those things in life we have no business controlling are really under control 😊 When we are doing our best and things STILL fall apart, we need to realize there is a greater purpose and a deeper meaning behind what seems like frenzied fate and uncontainable misfortune.
One aspect of Charles Stanley’s ministry is the teaching of 30 “Life Principles” – values and truths from Scriptures that help us as we journey through our life here on this earth. One of those principles is “Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him”
“If you carefully obey me and are faithful to the terms of my promise, then out of all the nations you will be my own special possession, even though the whole world is mine.” – Exodus 19:5 GOD’S WORD translation
You see…. If we center our RESPONSE-ability within the values and truths found in God’s principles for living, we can have tremendous confidence in the consequences that unfold in our lives as a result – knowing they are a part of His plan for us (Jerimiah 29:11) and will eventually work together for our good (Romans 8:28).
I love this verse in the Tao Te Ching:
“Trying to control the future is like trying to take the Master Carpenter’s place. When you handle the Master Carpenter’s tools, chances are that you’ll cut your hand.” – Lao Tzu
It reminds us that our Sovereign Lord is in control of things we cannot control – often working plans and purposes that are outside of our human ability to understand and interpret. Our job is to focus on OUR RESPONSE-ability and to trust Him with all the events and circumstances of life that develop from there. When we attempt to control the uncontrollable or place our efforts on controlling people and circumstances instead of our own reactions and response, we often end up “cutting our own hand” as Lao Tzu suggests.
Balancing both concepts is a lot like dancing with a great partner 😊 I really miss dancing with my ex-wife. We both grew up in the upper Midwest where the German ancestry loomed large! Learning to dance the polka and the waltz was just a normal part of life.
It seemed like when we danced together, it just clicked. You knew the person so well that you could anticipate their next move. You instinctively knew when to lead and when to follow. What resulted was free-flowing turns, anticipated twirls, and coordinated movements that made the dancing fun and beautiful all at the same time 😊
When it comes to our desire to control, we need to know when to lead by our RESPONSE-ability and when to follow – allowing God’s sovereignty and purposes to unfold. When we let go and trust the twists and turns, we end up beautifully dancing through life 😊
May each of us learn to turn our desire to control on ourselves – focusing first and foremost on what truly can be 100% controlled by us – our REACTIONS and RESPONSES to the events, people, and circumstances within our lives.
As we grow in shaping those responses to fit God’s principles for living, I pray that each of us learn what should be controlled and what should be left to a Sovereign God – trusting that whatever unfolds (good or bad) is part of an intricate, detailed, loving plan for us and others.
Let’s beautifully dance through life with our Creator – knowing when to lead and when to follow 😊