Control: My Fear and My Obsession

Control: My Fear and My Obsession July 14, 2020

When I think about my attitude about control, I kind of feel like a crazy person. Almost like there are two parts of me at war with one another. The one part is absolutely obsessed with control. I want things my way. I want to have my cake and eat it too. I want to know what is going on, to predict (if not manipulate) how others are going to respond to me and be on the ready with a perfect response to their responses. On the other hand, I don’t want to be in control because that means I have to be responsible for what happens. I know I am imperfect and I don’t really trust myself. I want someone else to tell me what to do and how to feel.

So, in certain circumstances, I am obsessed with control and run towards it full force. Usually this is my posture toward external circumstances.

But in other circumstances I flee from control like it is the plague. I don’t want it, avoid it, and pretend I don’t have it when it is clearly there. These are mostly internal circumstances that make me feel responsible and exposed to the possibility of failure.

The result is that I live in this crazy swirl where I am simultaneously trying to control everything but be responsible for nothing. I want the credit but none of the culpability.



For many, this is not the case, but I really believe my story is centered around the fear of control. I am a much better avoider than an over-committer. I don’t trust myself and I am too in my head to ever feel fully confident about a decision. And I am afraid of failure. Absolutely terrified. I am afraid any specific failed situation is a referendum on my character and very sense of being.

The result is I hide from the things I ought to take control of. I run when I should step up. I cower when I should lead.

One of the many things I have grown in since being married is the necessity to step up when the situation properly calls for it. Be bold. Be decisive. Not just for myself, but for our family. For the sake of others.

When I lack the courage to take responsibility for what is mine to steward I hurt myself, the communities I am involved with, and the relationships I am in.



So, for me, the obsession part is what happens when I overcorrect in the opposite direction. I’m sure many feel the reverse of this, where they start at obsession and overcorrect to fear.

For me, obsession is about eliminating the input of others so I don’t have to face their rejections. It is about validating myself. It is about overcompensating for the fear by manipulating everything around me so as to suffocate it. Yet, somehow, my attempts to suffocate seem to have the opposite effect. They seem to fan the flame.

The other part of this is a true lack of humility. Maybe the real shame in my control obsession is that it shackles me into my own perspective, true or not. And it is always lacking at least some truth, since truth is too big for any one of us. I become an echo chamber, increasingly frustrated with those who don’t agree with me.


Just Three Things

One of the most helpful tools Servant Leadership introduced me to is the three things you can control.

It helps me to narrow and define what I am responsible for so I can steward it well. It helps me let go of the things that are not mine, that I have no right to try to control. It quells my fear and subdues my obsession.

The three things you can control are: your attitude/perspective, your choices/actions, and whom you trust.

Focusing on those three things for just this one little, imperfect life has helped me to get off the crazy and dizzying carousel of chasing after control with fear and obsession. It has helped set me free.

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