The Problem With Control...
Hello and good afternoon!
I am so happy you are joining for yet another installment of our Sunday Series. This series has been a staple at the Mrs. Midwest blog since I began blogging regularly in November, and I am pleased to write this week's post!
Today is all about control. How do we fall into the trap of over-controlling our lives, why we should release that control, AND, a little bit about my journey with control.
Let's dive in!
I have always had trouble with wanting to control my life. Even though I have a very free-spirited and laissez-faire side, I hated change, new experiences, meeting new people, and unknown situations. I loved to be in charge, call the shots, and ultimately, to have the final say on where my life was headed and how it was going.
I wanted to control the outcomes in my life, and even the PEOPLE in my life! I sometimes felt like I operated more like a public-relations firm than a real person.
Unfortunately for me, it wasn't until I went through an extremely traumatic time in my life that I finally learned to give up control. I went through a painful family conflict that resulted in the loss of my relationships, my reputation, my money, my mental health, and basically... life as I knew it.
I had no way to control what people thought about me, no way to control my emotions, no way to control my relationships, and no way to control life! I didn't want to be a weird, grieving, penniless, and unhappy girl during my Junior year at college, but there was nothing I could do about it.
Because no matter how hard you try, you cannot control grief. You cannot control depression, and you cannot always control your financial state. You can't control other people, and you cannot always control your reputation.
People can and WILL leave you. Your mental health CAN take a nose-dive. Your bank account CAN empty, and you CAN lose your reputation.
That harsh reality stripped me of all semblance of control. It has taken a few years to recover, but since then I have realized that life is so much sweeter when we simply roll with the tides and allow the seasons to come and go.
Strategy is Good, But Too Much Control is Unhealthy
I truly believe in "strategic living." I believe in making choices with mindful thought and interest in creating positive outcomes in your life. I believe in controlling the media we consume, remaining disciplined in our diets, and in pushing ourselves to always be our best.
I believe in strategically finding good people to date, in making strategic career decisions, and in choosing a healthy lifestyle that will lead to long life!
All of those strategic choices are good and positive. Controlling ourselves isn't a problem because it's our responsibility to focus on ourselves. But we don't have the responsibility to control the outcomes in other people's lives, or the responsibility to prevent hard things from happening.
We cannot control difficult times, and we cannot control other people. It's impossible to force people to understand or agree with you, just as it is impossible to prevent difficult hardships or tragedy from occurring.
Forcing other people to love you is about as effective as trying to prevent a natural disaster.
So why do we do it then?
Why do we continually try to change other people or try to prevent bad things from happening to us? Why do we run away from change and try to make people like us?
I think this all stems from fear. We fall into the control-trap because we don't want to experience pain! Honestly it is kind of a healthy instinct to protect yourself from pain, but if we want to live balanced and blossoming lives, we must learn that we cannot fully protect ourselves from pain.
The truth is that this is a broken world and other people are going to hurt us. People will abandon us, sickness will happen, and life will change.
There are only two guarantees in life:
1. You can only control your OWN behavior
2. People will hurt you and life will be difficult
It's futile to try to control other people. They will always, at the end of the day, have the option to bless or harm us. We cannot run around desperately trying to please others, just to avoid a relationship outcome involving pain. We should not be inauthentic in the name of getting others to like us.
Likewise, life will be difficult, and we cannot prevent difficult things from happening. We should not live life in fear of the next conflict, sickness, or hardship. Instead, we should remain grateful in our blessings and energized in the truth that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
Letting go of control doesn't have to be a drastic activity: it doesn't have to look like a drinking binge or crazy night out. It simply means releasing the things in our life to God, and recognizing the fact that we can only control ourselves.
Even if you are not a believer, it can still be highly encouraging to realize that most of life is outside of our control, but that doesn't mean life is going to be bad. When we relinquish our control over others and our intense fear of hard times, we can begin to enjoy life and focus on ourselves.
Release control in your relationships. Remember that we cannot control other people, but we can control ourselves. We can avoid toxic and painful relationships by controlling who we allow into our lives and how we allow them to treat us.
Letting go of controlling others doesn't mean allowing anyone to waltz into your life and wreak havoc! No!
It simply means giving people the space to flourish and blossom as they were meant to: whether or not you have given your stamp of approval.
If we are so focused on other people and controlling their lives, we will forget to work on ourselves. Release other people from your control and begin nurturing your OWN heart and body. Focus on living strategically and responsibly for yourself, and let go of the need to be in charge of other people.
Don't fear the hard times in life. Instead, know that they will happen, and learn to rely on the support and love of others when they do. Surprisingly, as I've learned to focus on what I CAN control, it's been easier to let go of controlling my life.
I have learned that you cannot force people to understand you. I have learned that you cannot force your life to be picture-perfect, and I ultimately learned that I could not force myself to be mentally-stable when I wasn't.
I had to embrace my brokenness and learn to thrive in a completely new realm: one that didn't involve my ever-tightening grip on control, but one outfitted with a trust in the Lord and an acceptance in the weird, painful, and frustrating side of life.
Life is weird and relationships are confusing, but we can always remain at peace in the fact that we are only responsible for ourselves.
I hope you have a blessed Sunday!