Working with kids in the court system, I’ll sometimes share with them the concept someone came up with that there are 3 ways that most (all?) of life can be categorized: 1) things they can control, 2) things they can’t control, and 3) things they can influence. Turns out, that doesn’t just apply to teenagers trying to figure things out; it works for the rest of us, too.

At least, I know it applies to me. I continually have to remember that I can only control what I do. I can’t control what you do, or my kids, or my wife. My neighbor’s choices aren’t mine to determine, nor are the president’s or the annoying driver who just cut me off. When I think about it, there are a lot of things I find annoying that I can’t control.

I especially find it frustrating when I think I do a good job with the things I can control — and then somebody else does a lousy job of responding. How dare they respond harshly to my good intentions? Can’t they see the good I’m at least trying to do?

But it’s helpful for me to bear in mind that I never know what someone else is thinking, or what they’re facing. I never know all the things they’ve been through — all the stuff that has happened to them that they can’t control. For the truth is: 100% of the people I interact with have had stuff out of their control happen to them. Any many of those people struggle to find healthy ways to control their actions in response to the unhealthy stuff that has happened to them that was out of their control. It can be a vicious cycle.

And so, my job — and yours, too, I believe — is to be kind to people, even as we establish healthy boundaries. These are 2 things we can control. Grace and boundaries, as Brene
Brown calls them. Both recognize that we’re dealing with people who themselves are dealing with stuff (grace), while we also see the importance of establishing healthy guidelines for our interactions with them (boundaries).

At the same time, we can also control how we handle what we’re given. We can choose to deal with our own junk. To follow our calling. To be wise stewards of what we’re given. To live faithfully with what we can control. And leave the rest to God. This applies to marriage & parenting. Working and neighboring. It fits with everyone in your life, from the checkout clerk to your granddaughter to your ex to your boss to your mentee to your most annoying facebook “friend.”

Ultimately, I find freedom in this concept. Freedom to do all I can do that is right and loving and faithful (as best as I understand it); and trust that God will use it to influence, but not control, others. For while you can’t control other people, if you love them, and love them well, you can influence them. They may not respond like you want. Heck, they might not respond at all. But that’s the beauty of it. How they respond isn’t up to us. We’re simply called to be faithful, and then leave the rest to God.

One thought on “Out of my control

  1. As a control freak, I can relate. Thanks for sharing (especially the part about the granddaughter LOL – certainly have to leave that situation in God’s hands!).

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