I’m Not Controlling

I just like my latte extra hot

When I go into Starbucks, I want my order to be just right. I prefer that my latte be made with one percent milk, two shots of espresso, and two shots of vanilla. I like it low foam and extra hot. But that's a little what you might call high maintenance, so I restrain myself from asking for all five at once!

The same invisible force that nudges me to test the barista's memory—and patience—is at work in you right now. The force determines what you say and how you say it. It is the crayon that colors your past and will write your future. It is a complicating factor in your relationships with God and other people. And it requires constant tending. Yet my guess is that you've never thought very deeply about how this force works, when it formed, and where you really stand with it. That force?

Control.

We talk about people being control freaks when they try too hard to manage others. (Given my confession about my detailed latte preferences, you may have already correctly pegged me as one.) Some people think there is a right way to do things, and I happen to be one of them. Some-times it works out: I'm right and things go according to plan. But because life is more gray than black-and-white and because my internal rules don't come anywhere close to my reality, many times I am wrong.

At the other extreme, we call people "out of control" when they do a poor job of managing them-selves. They frustrate friends and family members by their refusal to take responsibility and work toward positive change. Their understanding of control is completely different from mine, but it can result in just as many issues.

Another word for control is power; namely, the power we have over the course of our lives and over people in them. And why does this matter? Because my guess is that you, like me, have no idea exactly how much you are supposed to control. Too much control and we coerce and ma-nipulate, thinking this is how we love people. Too little control and we abdicate our own influ-ence and responsibility to be a loving force in the world. A misuse or misunderstanding of our own control is the issue that drives women crazy—crazy with exhaustion trying to manage every detail of life, or crazy with discouragement about the futility of life. What is our responsibility and what is not? What does God require from us, and what is he going to do himself? How ex-actly do we love someone without controlling him or her? And is there a way for us to under-stand God and our actions with a healthy view of control?

July 19, 2012 at 8:13 AM

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