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Releasing Control: Finding the Path to Freedom
We all want control. Control of our
lives, situations, and yes, even other people. But what happens
when we feel our control has been taken from us? What do we do
when control slips through our hands, and we realize that
whatever happens is beyond any influence or input we may give?
Wanting control over our lives and the circumstances that surround us is natural. There’s a hidden trait in each of us -- selfishness -- and no matter how hard we try to deny it or hide it, it always rears its ugly head in times of uncertainty and doubt. Selfishness is just part of our basic human nature, and has been with us since the garden when Eve displayed it so vividly by eating the forbidden fruit.
Selfishness: this evil epidemic which causes marriages to crumble, companies to be torn apart, and children desperately searching for love and affection. Why? Because we all long for some control, and when we don’t get it -- or we lose it -- we are thrown into a panic of fear.
I am extremely familiar with this unwanted trait, and it has taken me years to realize that, like it or not, it’s part of my character. Each day is a continuous battle with my natural instincts for control over the events in my life, and I am constantly quenching the fires of selfishness within my personality.
Without even realizing it, I had become a master manipulator. Every area of my life was regulated to meet my needs and desires. My friendships were treated as banks, depositing and withdrawing as I needed. “I’ll watch Julie’s kids tomorrow, and she’ll owe me a favor the next time we need a sitter.”
Instead of encouraging, I counseled -- freely offering my advice and opinions. “I wouldn’t take that from anyone!” “This is what you say…”
My children’s lives were kept closely under my thumb as I quickly volunteered in classrooms and ball teams. I didn’t necessarily participate out of enjoyment, but more out of a benefit to my kids and an inside to the goings-on.
Perhaps the biggest eye-opener was the manipulation I used in my marriage. I had my own ideas of the roles my husband was to play, and I skillfully used my actions and emotions to get the desired responses. Nagging was used to get him to help around the house. Whining was my means of getting his attention, and angry silence was used as revenge when I felt hurt or neglected.
I continually questioned his comings and goings, checked his stories, and used no discretion when talking with his co-workers and friends. “I thought you said you were going to Dave’s.” “What time did you get there?” “Who all was there?” “What time did you leave?” Trust was not active in my character.
The more I used manipulation to control my circumstances, the more frustrated and tired I became. The continuing of the charade was necessary to retain the desired responses. Everything I was became wrapped up in the actions of others. I was engulfed in a vicious cycle that landed my life in the depths of hell -- literally! My kids were a mess, my friends were dropping out of my life, my marriage was on the rocks, and alcohol had become the only escape from the dissension I had created.
Unmet expectations and disappointments in others produced a tirade of angry assaults on those closest to me. And my life literally crumbled before my eyes when my husband confronted me with his unhappiness in the marriage. Panic and fear set in and I desperately tried new ways to regain the lost control of my surroundings. With each failed attempt, the chasm between others and myself only deepened.
With all hope extinguished, I accepted defeat, and realized that I was in too deep to conquer these attitudes alone. I turned to God for help, praying for some insight into the needed changes. The abuse I had inflicted towards my family and my friends because of my selfishness had been exposed, and my eyes were opened to the core of my substance.
The process was slow, beginning with my introduction to Jesus Christ and the purpose behind His existence. He died for people just like me: people who were blinded by selfish desires and worldly influences -- people who have chosen to live this life through their own means. He wanted to help, but couldn’t as long as I was trying to control things on my own.
Through my study of the Bible, I
began to get a picture of who I had become versus who Jesus
wanted me to be. I was on the right path but it was covered with
obstacles and the ascent was sometimes steeper than my will.
Ultimately, it was my selfishness and fears that had fueled my desires to control. Walls had been built around my heart from hurts of the past, and as long as I controlled, I thought I could avoid any more hurt in my life. As I evaluated my character, I was repulsed by the ugliness I had allowed in. I could only see my self worth through my gains and how I related to others. Greed, pride, jealousy, bitterness, envy, anger: all had entwined themselves within me.
Luckily, God is in the character building (or in my case, re-building) program. Matthew 7:3 states, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” I’d spent my life analyzing what everyone else around me was doing while paying no attention to my own motives. How dare I condemn others when I, myself, was no better!
Each negative characteristic that occupied my temperament was carefully compared to the words of the Bible. Hours upon hours were spent searching the scriptures for particular verses pertaining to specific attitudes and emotions. As I confessed these emotions to Jesus, He was slowly able to break into my heart. I was learning to release my will while accepting His.
God showed me that my purpose and fulfillment could only come from Him and my relationship with Jesus Christ. Only He could fill my voids. I was created for a purpose - - individually -- for Him.
No matter how much I tried to control my circumstances or manipulate situations, others would let me down. I will always face unmet expectations as long as my expectations were contrary to His Word. Only by trusting God and seeing Him as the ultimate controller would I never be let down. I will still suffer. I will still be disappointed. But He will bring good out of it (Rom. 8:28).
This journey has been long and painful, but God has slowly and tediously -- with much grace and mercy -- exposed my character defects. My natural tendency was to change all at once and go on. “Let’s just fix it, and then everything will be all right again.” But that’s not how our Lord works. One by one, I had to confront each flaw, and as I did, He replaced it with the truth and teachings of His word. The desire to change was all that He’d asked of me.
Many times I have caught myself on the brink of falling back into the same patterns to control certain circumstances. But God has been faithful in providing me with His strength to continue on my path to freedom.
I once heard a saying: “Love is what is left in a relationship when selfishness is removed.” And this is what happened to me. By acknowledging this tendency, I am more aware of my actions and emotions and the motives behind them. No longer do I hold others responsible for my happiness and fulfillment. I have given others the freedom to become that which God purposes. My responsibility remains with my own actions and reactions.
I am becoming a new person, and the transformation that has occurred thus far has been miraculous. My children are thriving, my marriage has been renewed, and my friendships are genuine. The negative attitudes and emotions that ruled my life and kept me wanting to control have been released. Peace and love now fill my once empty core. I’ve learned to let go, and let God. I have given Him the control over my daily affairs, and He, in turn, has filled me with the confidence of knowing that all is taken care of. It is a freedom like no other.
Our God is love and our lives are sustained through a variety of relationships. Releasing control is attained when we purify our motives, forgive the faults and shortcomings of others, and when we love unconditionally as Jesus has loved us. Until we rid ourselves of the selfishness that corrodes our relationships, they can never be what God has intended them to be. We are short-changing ourselves if we think otherwise.
© 1999 Caryn Burdine