One thing that is pretty consistent among people is the need to be in control. No one wants to feel as though they are on a burning stage coach, with no reigns, as it goes barreling down the open road. So we do our best to try and control the course of our lives. The problem is, we live with the illusion that we can control more than we actually are able to. We feel as though we are in control of our health. While we are able to make good choices, we have no guarantee how long we will live. One of us could have a terminal disease right now without being aware of it. I hope it is you and not me (just kidding, okay, maybe I am not, or am I? Who knows?). We think we are in control of our careers. We believe we have financial security and can control our future. We think we are in control of our families. At times, we even think we are in control of other people. But in reality, much of what we think we are in control of is illusion. We like to think we are in control because it makes us feel comfortable.
So the question is, what can we control? We are in command of very little actually. Does that make you feel uncomfortable? Yea, me too. The good news is, while much of our life is beyond our capacity to control, there are two very significant aspects of our lives that we can control. Just as a caveat, if you think one of these two things is other people, then you are deceived. We cannot control or change other people. The sooner we learn this lesson the better our lives will be.
The first thing in our lives we can control is our thinking. Some feel that we are subject to the whims of our thought life, but in all actuality we control what we think about. When thoughts come into our minds that are problematic, negative, destructive, sinful, or damaging we can choose to change the channel in our minds. The more we address our thought life and practice changing our thoughts, the easier it is to command what is going on between our ears. We can choose how to perceive things. We can challenge our own assumptions. We can see the glass half full instead of half empty. We can fly our attitudes at higher altitudes. Yes, we have control over our thought life.
The second thing that we have full control over is our behavior. This is closely linked with our thought life, because thoughts often lead to behavior. The longer we entertain an idea the more apt we are to act on that idea. The easiest way to change our behavior is to change our thoughts. So many people blame others or their circumstances for their actions. The truth is, we have no excuse for how we behave. Now certainly our history, environment, and other people can influence us, but only we are responsible for what we do. When we act as fools we have no one to blame but ourselves.
When we try and control the world around us we are met with frustration. We simply cannot change things outside of what we think and what we do. At times, we even use worry as an attempt to control things. We may not be aware of it, but we worry about things because it feels that somehow it keeps us in some form of control in situations that seem ominous.
What if instead of worrying, trying to control others, and fruitlessly trying to bridle the world around us we focused on the only things we can control, our thoughts and behaviors. I think this would be a much better use of our time.
Viktor Frankl recounts in his memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning, about his time spent in several Nazi death camps. He was a prominent Jewish Psychiatrist and Neurologist who had everything in life stripped from him. Everything one might be tempted to think they have control of was taken from him. Yet, when all seemed lost, he realized he could still control his thoughts and his behaviors. Listen to the way Frankl elegantly expresses this idea. “Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Jesus also reminds us in the book of Matthew, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Let’s forget trying to control the things we can’t. He would prefer we put our energy into changing what we think about and who we are becoming.
While we are limited to these two things that we have control of, God is in control. We can work on our thoughts and behaviors and allow God to handle the rest. He reminds us, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Those things that we attempt to control with no avail, what if we just let God deal with those? He has got it covered.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
What things in your life do you try to control?