Let go of control
In the last few articles we’ve touched on the idea of letting go of control and depending on God, but today we are going to dive deeper. One of my favorite old movies is Days of Thunder, starring Tom Cruise and Nichole Kidman. In one scene, Cole and Claire are in an argument about Cole, Cruise’s character, going back to racing after an accident. Claire, Kidman’s character, tells Cole that “control is an illusion.” Hard to believe that such profound wisdom could come from a 90’s cult classic, but it’s true. The illusion of control trumps us all up at some point.
Here are some things to know about control.
- My ego is involved. Control usually involves the ego is some shape or form. When I am attempting to control people, places, and things, I believe that what I know and believe is superior to others. You have to have a little ego to arrive at that conclusion.
- Controlling separates us from both God and others. The more you try to control the thoughts, behaviors, and experiences of others, the lonelier you will be. First, people generally don’t like to be controlled. Ask a two year old who wants ice cream for breakfast. We really never lose the impulse for free will. Second, because control is really ego-driven, people recognize your selfishness and eventually grow tired of it. Lastly, God can’t be controlled and when we do try to control, we are really putting ourselves in the position of God. When we upset the divine order, we lost our relationship with God.
- If you are trying to control others, it’s a pretty sure sign that you are trying to control the disorder in your own life. Sometimes this can masquerade as helpfulness, providing comfort, safety, and security to others. Cooking a meal for your two year old isn’t controlling, its being responsible. Preparing reheatable freezer meals for your 25 year-old, completely healthy and capable son is controlling.
- If I’m constantly seeking approval and justification of my decisions from others, I’m probably controlling. Controlling what, you ask? I’m trying to control their perception of me—I want to ensure they love and accept me by making the decision for which they approve.
- If you only feel okay when another person responds the way you want them to, you are controlling. Not sure you do this? Think of the last time you stated your opinion to someone in a conversation and then tailored subsequent justifications of the opinion to meet the other’s preferences. Example: I think we have the worst president ever….well, I guess he has done some good things on the border…now that you say that, I guess the last president was an adulterer. It’s okay to change our opinion, but if we are doing it solely to placate the person we are with, we are trying to control their perception of us.
So, how do we give up control? I can attest that it isn’t easy. I’m guilty of all the above ways of controlling and many more that aren’t listed. One of the ways I try to let go is recognize when I am trying to control. Some sure signs are anger, frustration, or mental fatigue, as when I’m trying to force a solution through thinking. When these signs pop up, I’ve learned a quick way to reorient myself using the Serenity Prayer.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can.
And, the wisdom to know the difference. (short version: attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr)
In most cases, I can’t change people, places, or things. I can usually change myself. The wisdom in knowing the difference comes from depending on God and asking the Holy Spirit to guide me. Again, a daily act of surrender.
Contributed by Liz Hunt
Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (2004). How people grow: What the Bible reveals about personal growth. Zondervan