Monday, November 28, 2016

Control: A Myth

Nature tries to teach us one of the most important lesson of life using just the weather...and we don't pay attention. One day last spring, it was 50 degrees and sunny. The next day, the wind gusted to 50 miles per hour and it snowed.

The snow was sticking. To trees. To grass. To our deck.

Our power flickered.

Dinner was almost derailed.

We are NOT in control.

Thank you, Jesus!

The responsibility would be crushing, don't you think? Yet we assume that responsibility all the time. We try to control others but, in the end, merely irritate them and look like fools for trying.

We expect the world--and everyone in it--to be the way we want the world--and everyone in it--to be and get angry when the world--and everyone in it--isn't what we expect.

Expectation is the mother of disappointment.

In his book Assholes: A Theory, philosopher Aaron James points out that we are much happier when we accept the reality of a situation and focus on controlling what we can control: our own actions and reactions. James' book focuses on dealing with assholes (whom, he argues, we can rarely change anyway, so why fight a fight you will lose?), but the basic idea generalizes out into many areas of life.

I suspect people with control issues just want to make the world more comfortable for themselves, but--and I speak from personal experience here--when we try to control the world, we end up miserable, bitter, angry failures. The world, like the weather, is just so uncooperative!

What, then, can we do? After five decades of life experience, I'm left with a few basic rules that seem to work on my path away from miserable, bitter, angry failure to something resembling happiness. Perhaps you've already figured these out (and faster than I did!), but here they are.

1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Or, put more colloquially, don't be an asshole.)
2. Put your energy into building up people, situations, and institutions you love rather than tearing down what you hate.
3. Most of the time, it's more important to be kind than to be right. But occasionally, it's more important to be right than kind. Wisdom is needed to discern the difference.
4. Compromise isn't weakness. It's a step forward.
5. At the end of the day, give it to God and go to sleep.

In the aftermath of an election that upset a lot of people (including me), these reminders come in handy. We aren't, individually, in control of much at all, but we can control our individual response to the situation.

Let's make it a good one.

What other life rules would you add to this list? Please share in the comments!


  1. "In a conflict of loyalty, obey Jesus at all costs." -Oswald Chambers

  2. Well said, as always!
    The only thing that could be added would be something like
    "Find pleasure in the little joys of life" and/or
    "Open your eyes to the beauty around us and take time to enjoy them"

  3. We need reminding so often! Amazing how we love to control things to feel safe, to make order ... or whatever the reason. I have let a lot of things go ... but I still catch myself trying to control small parts of my world.

    1. Janet, sounds like you and I are in similar places, having let so much go but still surprising myself when little areas of control surface. It's easier to squash them, now!


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!