When Our Need To Control Becomes Controlling
I've been reading and learning a lot about surrender lately, and here's what I'm learning: Surrender is hard. And if you're going to follow Jesus' example, it's especially hard.
Following Jesus more fully means that you surrender your own will to God's, you surrender the outcomes of things that you want to control, and you do your best to make decisions and move forward, surrendering all of that, too.
On top of all that, you also have to practice letting go of unhealthy attachments, forgiving slights (both real and imagined), working on being non-reactive to the actions of others, letting yourself feel anger, sadness, loss, and anxiety, but not being controlled by it... the list goes on, my friends.
In short, it sucks to practice surrender, and most of us aren't that good at it.
Also, throwing up your hands and "surrendering" your efforts to surrender, is not surrender. That's something else, and it's fairly self-destructive.
If you haven't read anything by Melody Beattie, you should. In a book of daily meditations by Beattie, I found this little gem:
Whatever we try to control does have control over us and our life.
Ugh. That's hard to hear, am I right?
The fact of the matter is, every single one of us has found ourselves in situations where our need for control, became the very thing that controlled us.
Maybe we tried to control someone's behavior, became consumed by it, and maybe even attached our own self-worth to the project, as well. So when the person inevitably defied our expectations, we found ourselves feeling like a failure.
Or we needed to make a decision but didn't want to mess it up so we did everything we could to control the outcome---except for the things we couldn't control, and then the whole thing fell apart.
I could go on and on with a hundred different examples because I've lived this stuff--most of us have... if we're being honest with ourselves. And that also is the rub in all of this: Our decided lack of honesty.
When we realize our desire for control is now controlling us, and further that whatever control we thought we had was nothing but an illusion, it's a hard truth that is difficult to face.
I read this amazing line from Padraig O'Tuama the other day, and wrote it down:
Sometimes the story we tell about the place we are—even the place called anger—is a story that we try desperately to believe because the truth feels too hard to face.
The bottom line to all of this is pretty simple: It's not easy trying to surrender the way that Jesus taught his followers to surrender. But it's a dang sight better than the alternative.
Because the alternative leads us to a place of self-doubt, fear, and even self-loathing if we let it. But we don't; have to go there. All we need is to just be honest with ourselves about ourselves, and admit that we aren't in control.
Surrender all of your outcomes to God today--try it on for size, and see how it fits. Start small, perhaps. Give yourself grace. Learn to let go.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.