Control – The Grand Illusion

We want control; that is the human condition. Different personalities can express their desire for independence in various ways. Some will be overt and very aggressive in their words and actions. Others will act more compliant but be passive aggressive. The people pleaser will take years to build up enough resentment to rebel.

However, the reality is control is an illusion. There is very little in life we have control over. We can’t control the weather, the economy, other nations, nature, time, people – even ourselves at times. This list could go on. So why do we fool ourselves into thinking we can? Because of how it makes us feel – powerful. So the grand illusion continues. It is not that we have no control but we must understand the difference of what we can control and what we can’t.


Humanity out of balance

As humans we tend to live in extremes. I control everything or I control nothing. Scripture tells us the world system operates on three principles: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. The pride of life is about control and power. It is one of the first temptations humans faced in the Garden of Eden. Eat of the forbidden fruit and “you shall be like God.” Take control back from God and become your own god. Chart your own course, you know best, you can’t trust what God says. The mess our planet is in today is because of our desire for control.

The other extreme is also very visible today – I have no control. I am not responsible; it’s not my problem, so no one wants to take responsibility for anything. Any parent of more than one child runs into this frustration: “I didn’t do it, neither did I.” It is that insidious “someone else” who does everything. This pattern holds true into adulthood in business, government or when dealing with any institution. People quickly go into “every man for himself” mode. “I’m not going to get blamed for this.”

Control is rooted in the feeling of freedom and independence. When I am powerful enough, no one can tell me no. I want to live in this feeling until something goes wrong because of my control then I want to blame others. I do this by shifting the illusion of control to another until the crisis passes. Then I will take it back again.


Control and anger

One cause of anger is blocked goals. Therefore, the more you try to control the angrier you become. Why? Remember the previous reality? We have control over very little. People and things will constantly get in your way; they won’t cooperate with your plans because they have their own plans they wish to control. This leads to constant frustration, which is just another term for anger.

Someone is thinking, but I sign their check. I am higher up in the organization. I can make their life miserable. Because of this they will obey me. Yes, some will but not all. Others know how to play the game, how to sabotage the best of plans and look totally innocent while doing it. They too know how to make your life miserable.

Did it ever occur to you that God, who is the supreme authority, doesn’t try to control us?


Servant leadership

God does have a desire and preferred plan for each of our lives. It is the best thing for us, but he doesn’t force it upon us. Perhaps we could learn a better way to influence others besides the old human way of command and control. Jesus introduced a new paradigm of control. It is the principle by which his kingdom (or any business,

organization, family) functions. Control by serving others rather than manipulating them. You model what you want,


tell the truth, be consistent and help others achieve their dream. Do to others what you want them to do to you. The cynic will say this doesn’t work in the real world. So how is your way working?

Forced compliance, slavery and threats can get a job done in the short run. But all this is part of the grand illusion of control. Building anything that lasts and prospers from a family to a nation cannot be built on fear and intimidation. Everything in life is about relationships. Healthy relationships are motivated by love, and actions spring from a willing heart. You cannot command this from another. This is how God leads us and accomplishes his will on earth through us. This doesn’t mean you don’t tell a child no at times or an employee, “I’m afraid you’re not a good fit for our organization.” Sometimes this is the kindest and most loving thing you can do for a person.

It is amazing to watch how much more you can get accomplished and how more things turn out the way you want when you are willing to give up control. You will be less stressed as well as less angry. Try a different approach: “This is what I think, but tell me how you see it.” “I would like to do this, but I’m fine with what you would like.” Test this out and watch what happens. Remind yourself, I am not God and control very little in life.

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