Have you stood at the doorway, staring hard at the happy little wreath, under the shadow of the glimmering Christmas lights, hearing the laughter and jingle bells from the other side and hesitated. Taking a moment to breath in the joy now because you know by the end of the festivities you will be tense, irritable or just plain hurt. It happens every year. Some disagreement, simple misunderstanding or wayward political conversation sets the family into a downward spiral of emotions – whether they are verbalized or not – everyone heads to bed feeling a little less cheery than they were 5 hours ago.
I have control issues. I was enlightened of high need for control several years ago by my counselor (much to my surprise) and have been acutely aware ever since. I think I do it for a feeling of security and safety. If I can have control over my environment then I will be safe because too much of the whole rest my world is out of control. Needless to say, I have wreaked havoc over many family holidays.
Recently, after a tremendous amount of prayer, soul searching, book reading, sermon watching, podcast listening, I think I’m starting to get it.
This is my conclusion: The freedom in understanding the dynamics of control lies in letting go of it when I have none and claiming it when I do.
Some of the things I can’t control:
- Other people. Period.
*The list of “other people” includes but is not limited to:
- Children – I have control over my influence by the example I set and the consequences I enforce, but I have no control over their choices, decisions, and reactions. They will grow up to be who they choose to be. Example: Two children growing up in the same alcoholic home, one becomes an alcoholic, the other doesn’t and they both say it’s because they watched their father drink.
- Parents, siblings and other family members
- Spouses and their other people – BTW, your spouse has no control over his other people either
- Ex-spouses and their other people
- Any member of the opposite sex in any capacity
- Bosses and coworkers
- The mailman
- The lady in the checkout line with one too many items
- The guy who just cut you off in traffic
Things that I can control:
- Me. Period
- My decisions and choices
- My reactions to other people
- My activities, passions and desires
- My dreams and goals
- My ability and motivation to develop my gifts and talents
- My values and ethics
- My “yes’s” and my “no’s”
- My influence, leadership and my example to others; good or bad
- My boundaries and how I enforce them. (*refer to “things I can’t control.” I have NO control over how others react to my boundaries because I have no control over other people)
How has this revelation been a game changer for me? I get to choose who I want to be, how I want to be it, how I want to live this life, if I use my leadership, influence and example for good or for bad. Every choice and decision is mine and only mine to make. I can look to other people for their example. I can choose to whom I look based on what I’ve observed. I am responsible and in full control of every decision I make – good and bad.
Despite what I’ve come to believe, not a single other person on this planet has control over me. They may throw a fit, cry, yell, scream, spit, complain and gossip about me. Their reaction may make me feel bad or sad or angry but, ultimately I have control over the decisions I make.
When I attempt to make a decision I’m not okay with or that I wouldn’t normally make (maybe it compromises my character, goes against my values, makes me feel less valued, puts me at risk emotionally, financially, mentally, or I simply don’t want to) just to avoid the bad reaction, I create a false belief that I can control their reaction. Thereby, reinforcing the lie that I can control other people and that they have control over me. I’m now creating an even more sinister victim mentality that leads to an addiction to co-dependence – but that’s entirely too vast to cover here. **However, if you are reading this article and feeling overwhelmed by a revelation, may I suggest looking further into the subject**. I can reassure you it’s time well spent, as I have walked this path before you.
I’m not a therapist so I can’t offer you therapeutic advice on how to overcome control issues, but I am a Christian and I can offer some biblical perspective. When I return to the fear that I might be trying to control someone else, or fear I am being manipulated to make I choices I don’t want, I turn to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, “4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.”
Despite the internal reactions we choose to accept or ignore, when we take back our control and decide to be the example God has given us through patience, kindness, not being boastful or proud or rude or easily angered – God promises us “love never fails”. Even if the other person doesn’t receive it in the way you’d hoped, God catches it and releases you from trying to control other people and frees you to be who He created you to be.
I acknowledge the complexity of this topic and the number of different areas of control we have and don’t have. Let me just wrap it up with this; you are in control of you.
Go Be You!
**For a great resource on boundaries and other issues related to control visit Dr. Henry Cloud’s website and blog at https://www.boundaries.me/.
If you are single and looking for resources and insight from a renowned expert in relationships visit Getting the Love You Want on Facebook. Hillary Silver is a licensed sex and marriage therapist of 16 years, a relationship expert, coach and mentor. To learn more about her coaching, mentoring and program, visit www.hilarysilver.com.