The Illusion of Control

Control.  Everyone wants to have it over their lives.  We would like to believe that we are in control of our lives.  When we are young we feel invincible.  We feel that we can overcome anything.  We feel that we are immortal.  As we grow older we realize that we are not invincible, immortal or indestructible.

We’d like to think that we have total control over our lives but we don’t.

Drug and alcohol addicts often will tell their loved ones that they have things under control.

People with gambling problems feel they have things under control.

People with spending issues feel they have things under control.

A popular saying is, “I’ve got this!”  It’s a way of saying, “I am in control.”

Limited Control

We really only have limited control over our lives.  We can control what we eat, what we watch on TV, how much money we will spend, who we marry, etc.  We cannot completely control what happens to us.  We have limited control over what happens to us, but we have total control as to how we respond to our circumstances.

I thought I had my life pretty much in control until things suddenly went out of control. The thing about control is that it’s really just an illusion.  As I said earlier, there are things I can control such as eating, exercising and my habits.  But in life I am not the only one that has influence over me.  I have a family, a job, and attend church.  I have to get on the freeway with other people.  I have to deal with people every day of my life.

I have no control over what they do.

I can’t make them do anything.

Control is an Illusion

Control over people is an illusion, and for some that illusion is a safety net or a mask to hide insecurities in their own lives.

Take for example my children.  I cannot really make them do anything.  Oh, I can threaten, holler, yell at, and even punish them for not doing as I say.  However, the control of what they do or do not do is entirely in their hands.  If I tell one of my children to clean their room, I can’t make them do it.  What I can do is ground them if they don’t or take away certain privileges that they enjoy.  The choice of whether to obey or not is entirely based upon them.  They can either obey me out of their love and respect for me or they can weigh their options and decide to clean their room because they don’t want to lose their privileges.

Either way, I can’t control them or make them do anything.

And nobody can actually make me do anything I don’t want to do.

Marriage works the same way.  I cannot control what my spouse does.  She has total control over her own actions.  That’s the way free will works.

The Greatest Risk

The greatest risk God ever took is to create man with free will.  It is my opinion that by giving man free will God gave up control.  Now I believe that He is still in charge, which is different than control.

Being in charge means that you have the ultimate authority. In theological terms it means that God is sovereign.  Since man has free will, for that will to be truly free, God cannot make man’s decisions for him, nor can He make man do anything that man doesn’t want to do.  If He did, then He has violated man’s free will and therefore man truly doesn’t have free will.

I know this is a deep subject and I have probably opened up a can of questions that I don’t have time to answer in this short blog post.  It’s enough to say that since God will not control our lives then why do we fall into the illusion that we can, or should, control other people’s lives?  We cannot and we were never meant to.

I have to recognize that I live with the same issue of man’s free will that God does.  I have to realize that people are going to do what they want to do.  I do what I want to do . . . whether it’s good, bad or indifferent.  At the end of every day when I look back over my day I must take responsibility for my own actions because no one can force me to do what I do not want to do.

I Gave Up Control

I once served under a very controlling and dominating person.  I was very intimidated by this person.  I would like to place all the blame for the dysfunctionality of our relationship on them because of their controlling issues.  However, I must take the responsibility for my own actions in that I continued to allow them to control me.  I had insecurity issues going on.  I had validation issues.  I was looking for approval.  In some sick, twisted way I just wanted their approval so that I would feel better about myself.

I allowed them to control me.  I could have walked away but I was too afraid.  I was fear driven.  I allowed fear to gain the upper hand in my life which fed into the insecurities and controlling ways of this person.  I gave up my control to this person.

I gave up my control.  That’s important for me to realize.

It won’t happen again!

But I must also see that I have the ability to take advantage of other people’s fears and insecurities and watch them give up their control to me.  We all have the ability to feed off of other’s fears, insecurities and their need for validation.

It’s a very nasty thing that happens every day.  But it was never meant to be that way.

Honoring Other’s Choices

In order for me to truly love others I must honor their choices, even when I don’t agree with them.  For me to truly love another human being then I must honor their free will and never exert my control over them.

I realize there are situations such as being a parent, a boss or a pastor whereby I make decisions that others do not agree with and they will have to fall in love with my decisions because of the authority that I carry in that particular position.  But again, I can’t force people to do what they do not want to do.  They can either choose to follow my wishes or they can walk away, suffer consquences or disciplinary action or be fired.  Either way it’s still their choice.  I can’t make them do what they don’t want to do.

So in the end, control is really an illusion.  I can only control me.  You can only control you.  We must learn to honor each other’s free will and choice.  When I realized that I cannot control others it made my life easier because it took the weight of my shoulders.  It helped me to allow others to truly be themselves and I allowed me to be myself.

I control me.  You control you.  Let’s walk together as free men and women with free will before our God!

4 Comments On “The Illusion of Control”

  1. John

    So true Michael. ‘Self control’ being part of the fruit of the Spirit us a wonderful dynamic.

    I dislike immensely the thought of people controlling people. Yes there has to be boundaries we all adhere to but if I am not mistaken the control by leaders in the churches is nothing short of abuse! Might get I some flack for that statement. Good to see you both.
    Not too well today that is why I wasn’t there I had been up all night.

    Blessings John

  2. Looking back, I see so many times I tried to control others, especially using the tool of guilt! I was an expert on the guilt trip! just ask my kids! BUT GOD! Thank you for the reminder that He really is in control and as we walk in his control of our lives, we are too busy to try to control others. You said this well, again.
    Thanks!

    • Ruthie I think we have all used controlling methods, especially guilt. I still have to battle that at times. After the events of the past couple of years I have come to a point where I am just trying to control me because I am a full-time job! Much love to you!

  3. Pingback: I Give Up | MichaelWilson.org

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