One of Life’s Great Deceptions

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” John Steinbeck

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We all struggle to maintain some sense of control over our lives. Some of us attempt this by orchestrating the behavior and activities of our children. Some of us are unhealthy because allowing ourselves that next treat or extra helping is the one thing we feel we can control in our lives. Others of us create rigid, judgmental boundaries defining acceptable behavior – meting out judgment on those who do not reach our lofty standards fills us with a sense of justice and control.

And why not strive for a life in which I am the power broker? Whenever I try to control people or things or circumstances, I do it because I believe that my life will be better if it is predictable, on schedule, and under my control.

But there’s this funny thing about control. It tightens up my life. It’s like a wounded muscle, cramping in on itself to prevent further damage. The more I try to control the people and circumstances around me, the tighter my fist becomes.

This is one of life’s great deceptions. We believe that having more control will lead to greater predictability, which we believe will lead to greater happiness. But the exact opposite is actually the case. In the areas of my life where I have been able to relinquish this desperate desire for control, freedom has crept in. Freedom from judgment. Freedom from worry. Freedom from fear.

And then I realized – this constant striving for control, it was actually controlling me.

What the heck am I talking about? It’s this journey my family and I are on. When I try to control it, I get stomach pains and can’t think straight. When I take it as it comes, allow some flexibility to reside in my mind, the whole thing’s much more enjoyable.

What areas of your life (or someone else’s) are you trying to control, to your detriment? Have you ever been able to relinquish control over something? How did it feel?

6 Replies to “One of Life’s Great Deceptions”

  1. Shawn, that’s how it is with God, if we just give up control to Him life becomes so much easier and fuller!

  2. Interesting, that being on this trip requires control (i.e. for driving the bus), but that it also creates space to consider where control is not necessary, or of value…

  3. I used to be the most miserable person on the earth until I let go of other people. They are responsible and accountable for what they choose to do and what their choices are will not determine my happiness or the freedom I have. When people tell me they don’t understand my reasoning for not being a church member, I just tell them I don’t care if they understand or not understand. If they tell me they have a problem with me because of my choices, I tell them it is their problem, not mine. I am just me because I belong to God in Christ Jesus.

  4. Hey Shawn, So very true my friend! Over the years it seems as we acquire things and relationships or even become more knowledgeable about, lets say life. We tend to gravitate to a control pattern that helps us maintain a certain orbit. People never stay the same, things wear out and what I thought I knew 10 minutes ago has a different hue to it now. The person that has taught me the most about letting go of control has been my youngest son. Since high school he has been on a quest to find God’s design for his life. He has as you know been seeking this by journeying across the USA like a nomad. Everything in me wants to control his plans but He just says, “it is not where I am going, it is who I am becoming.”
    Thanks for reminding me that control is craziness, I needed that this morning. I bet if I spent more time seeking God’s design for myself and less time controlling others my life would be a lot less stressful.

  5. Thanks for the insight – I completely agree that greater control does not lead to greater happiness, yet I often forget this important fact. Thanks for the reminder!

  6. Trying to control our wild and crazy two-year-old. Needing to LET GO and extend some grace. God does it over and over for me – I need to do it over and over for her.

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