Friday, August 3, 2012

Control Freaks Part 2

Control is never complete.

I guess that's a short summary of what I've learned about control over the course of my life. In fact, it's far from complete. In fact, that we have much control at all verges on being a miracle.

So. In the first post in this series, I discussed some scenarios in which people experience different degrees of control over their lives. In just about every one, at some point, the wheels fall off the wagon and the formerly smooth trip becomes a breakdown.

How do we react to this event?

First, we may strive mightily for more control. We might say that we just didn't know enough, that we just weren't diligent enough. In short, we'd make excuses, and we'd try to make sure that thing - whatever "it" was - never happened again. Depending on the course of our lives, this sort of anxiety making attitude could become habitual.

Second, we might grow wiser. We might look at what had failed, and perhaps decide that it wasn't as great or important as we had thought. We might get reflective, and begin to take control of our expectations. We wouldn't stop trying to achieve, but we'd be less obsessed with it. Failure would become a time of re-creation and mid-course correction.

Third, we might give up in despair. What's the point, we'd say. I can't do anything right, we'd say. Screw this - it wasn't worth anything anyway. Just as in the first reaction, we'd blame ourselves, but there would be no second try, no trying to surmount the difficulties. We would admit defeat, and that would be that.

A particularly lethal version of the first response, from the standpoint of personal relationships and sane behavior, is one in which instead of blaming ourselves for failure, we blame others. It's always their fault I didn't get the job, the promotion, the new house, the girl, whatever. I wasn't to blame - it was them!

You can probably tell from the way I wrote about these responses that I think much more highly of the second one. This is the way that we age the best, when we face the inevitable failures in our lives, and find peace in spite of them. We become more gracious, more forgiving, and more sympathetic as a result of the reversals in our fortune, if we follow this middle way. We become gentle. And it's important to note the "we" in this sentence. Dealing with heartbreak takes place best in community.

We really shouldn't expect to avoid troubles, if we listen to the voice of Jesus. He told us we'd have trouble. He told us we'd be better off only dealing with the troubles of the day, and not worrying about tomorrow's difficulties. He said that at any moment we might have all our plans scuttled and have to answer for the way we had lived our lives. In short, he said in a variety of ways that we did not have final control.

He addressed the obsessive strivers as well. He said that the flowers of the field were more gorgeous than Solomon in all his glory, that our Father knows we need clothing and shelter and food, and that there's more to life than just our next meal. In short, he paraphrased Psalm 46:10a. "Be still, and know that I am God." Another translation puts it this way - "Cease striving, and know that I am God." Either way, the obsessive drive to get what we want blinds us to other, more important things.

Whether you're a follower of Jesus or not, your experience should indicate that control is never complete, that our grasp is never anywhere close to our reach, and that much of our sense of control is simply the way that things work. Just as things can inevitably fail - for no discernible reason - so things can just as inevitably work out right - for no discernible reason. Like I said yesterday, the reason success is distributed unevenly is a mystery, in the most deeply spiritual sense.

That's enough about control for now. It's never as complete as we would want it to be, sometimes woefully so. There's a corollary to this reality, and it has to do with freedom. More on that tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. I should mention in regard to an obsessive drive for more control, that it has all the earmarks of an addiction. My church offers a group that meets every Saturday evening that directly addresses those behaviors in all of us that keep us from being as healthy as we could be. Check out Mercy Street here: