If we are truly honest with ourselves, we like to control things and people.
I am as guilty of this as anyone.
In my own reflection, I recognize this is the result of three personality traits.
The first: my fear of losing people.
The second: my desire to be seen as good.
The third: my sensitivity and care for others, reinforced by my strong and daily feelings of empathy.
There is a danger to quickly classify these three traits as positive or negative. I try to avoid that, keeping judgement out of the process and seeing these, like clay, as possibilities for God to shape and mold.
The first trait probably comes from my fear of death, and my love of relationships (of course, some more than others). Like many of us, there is a great connection that we experience with others. To imagine a day when there will be people who I can no longer call or share a meal with, it raises my internal temperature. I become scared and anxious. I do not want to be alone.
There is little consolation in knowing I have memories and photographs. Maybe in time, but not now.
My faith calms these emotions, but it is a life-long challenge. It helps me relate to others as they mourn. Even in the midst of this great mystery of death, it helps me understand.
The second is the result of how I perceived life at a young age. In studying moral development, there is a stage we all experience, and some remain stuck. It is a stage of reward and punishment. “Clean your toys and you can have dessert.”
I believe I have moved through this, although I am extra conscious now as a parent.
But as children, as well as adults, we play roles. We develop a mask for different situations. My mask was to be good, so, I would be liked and accepted.
There were rewards at a young age- from television to chips to games. But I also didn’t want others to be upset. When others were upset, I tried to fix it. I still do.
It comes from a deep care for the other, which is my third trait. But this can get muddy as it carries an aspect of control. It connects to my first trait- if I don’t fix it, I may lose them. Not necessarily to death, but to continue the relationship (this control is dangerous as it could prevent the relationship from getting to a deeper, more meaningful place). It connects to my second trait- if things don’t get better, I may no longer be liked, loved, welcomed, and accepted.
This reflection comes from years of being self-aware and at times, critical of myself. It also comes from reminders from loved ones who call me on my actions.
One good friend recently grew frustrated as I tried to control a sticky situation. My desire was the protect all involved. The reality was that he only grew frustrated by not having a voice. The situation had to get messy. Then healing could truly occur. Despite good intentions, I was in control (or at least thought I was), and I was one making things worse.
A spiritual guide said to me recently, “let him be angry. Who are you to interfere. He may need to express this anger so he can move on.”
This was in context to another friend who was miserable. I was worried for his own health and the impact he had on others. My control wanted to fix it- but even in writing this, I know that was never possible.
I am often reminded as a partner and as a parent that control is a myth. I cannot make my wife and my daughter happy. Only they can.
They will be frustrated at times, as well as any other emotion. And yes, things I do, despite my good intentions, can lead them to a different response than I expect.
My daughter reminded me of this last night.
I thought that if I held her, she would relax and feel better (as she was fighting a cold). She gave me her cute, dirty look, and tried to escape my hug in exchange for the opportunity to play with her toys.
I literally had to “let go.”
And so I did.
And she played and she smiled.
A few minutes later, she was ready for that hug and we read the same book five times. We couldn’t be happier.
In a path to new spiritual heights, letting go is my greatest challenge. Allowing individuals to be, allows the Spirit to move freely through them and through me.
In giving up control, from my desire to “fix” things, to how I am perceived, and in keeping relationships, I feel better. I am free.
People are not here to be “fixed,” it takes away their dignity and freedom. While never the intention, I must be aware of the respect that I not only speak and show, but believe and live.
So, I share this with you today as a short reflection, which remains my daily challenge.
I invite you to consider:
Where do you look to control others or situations?
Where do you give room for the Spirit to move, giving freedom to the universe and to others?
How do you give up control?