Every day we wake up and log in to a game. The game is called control. We spend our entire day trying to gain control. We want to control the way people think about us and the way things turn out, our work and relationships, our emotions and our outcomes.
The scramble for control is a system one behavior. It has been programmed within us. We don’t even realize we are doing it. And when we do, we’re not sure what could be done to log out of the system and try something different.
And so, day after day, we try to beat one level and then the next. We fail and have to return to levels we thought we had beaten. It’s a never-ending game that zaps our energy and our potential.
Why We Want Control
The reason we want control is simple. We want to avoid pain. We want to sidestep suffering and find the peace and happiness that every human longs for.
We’ve bought into a specific narrative. And that narrative tells us that if we can dominate our circumstances and our relationships, we can predict the outcomes. We won’t be disappointed or hurt.
Unfortunately, life does not work that way. Perseverance is an inevitable part of human development. Our attempts to short-cut suffering are both destined to fail and spoil our development.
How To Win
The secret is this: the game is not all wrong. It can’t just be dismissed. It is a game we are meant to play. When we are made aware of the shortcomings of the scramble for control, we often swing too far in the other direction – throwing our hands up and refusing to play altogether.
The game of control does not need to be avoided, it needs to be won. But we don’t win it by conquering the world. We win it by discovering truth.
The truth is that there are things we can control, but our control has limits. We are not meant to be dictators, but we are meant to take responsibility. There are only three things we can control: 1) whom we trust; 2) our attitude/perspective; and 3) our choices.
To win the game of control, we steward these responsibilities with grace and truth. We take ownership of these three things and do the most good with the opportunities presented therein.
When To Log Out
It is so tempting to spill our efforts at control into other arenas. But there are only three things and, try as we might, our attempts to invade will fall short. We cannot control other people’s reactions or feelings (In a sense, we can’t even control our own emotions– just use them properly). We can’t control what others do or say or think, and we can’t control systems like governments or churches. However, we can influence all of these things.
Influence is a natural consequence of stewarding our responsibility well.
To life a fulfilling life, we must avoid the temptation to overstep our bounds. We must transform our generalized scramble for control to a intentional and localized effort. Only then can we unlock the doors to peace, joy, and purpose – the paths we so desperately long for.