Good Morning to the Shiniest Stars in my Universe!
I received a lot of feedback on the last post about when things in life seem out of your control. It must have hit a nerve, (wha??? life feeling out of control?? Never!!) so let’s dig in a little more.
Relationships have the power to uproot our hidden control issues. You know, like the way your spouse drives the car, loads the dishwasher and disciplines the kids. It’s not the way YOU would do it, and you may even feel compelled to comment on it (No, not you!!) How do you feel when your teenager walks out the door looking like she just got out of bed (because she did)? or your husband spends a bunch of money without you knowing (no, that never happens)? Or your co-worker throws you under the bus during a meeting (with the boss)? How do you respond to these assaults to your better self?
The better part of you wants to give people freedom to feel how they need to feel, do what they need to do, and be who they need to be. You want that freedom for yourself, and you want to give that freedom to the people around you.
But what if the way they live out their freedoms causes you pain, embarrassment, or hardship? What if the way they live out their freedoms, takes some of yours away?
This is the rub, isn’t it? When do we respond, and when do we let it go? When do we stand our ground, and when do we step aside? When do we exert control, influence and power, and when do we give it up?
These are tricky questions that I don’t have figured out all the way. What I can tell you though, is that answers are in the relationship. Instead of distancing ourselves from the people who hurt us, we must first draw closer in to the relationship. By confronting difficult conflicts, asking the right questions, and pursuing understanding, we send the message, “This relationship is important to me and I want to strengthen in.”
Your teenager’s bad breath, bed hair and dirty sweats aren’t the problem. It’s the embarrassment you feel when other people see her. Your husband’s surprise spending isn’t the problem, it’s the betrayal you feel that you weren’t included. Your co-worker’s statement isn’t the problem. It’s the fear you feel that he may be right.
Embarrassment, shame, betrayal and fear all are feelings inside of you that you can deal with. Once you recognize the feelings inside of you, you have the choice how you will respond to those feelings.Trouble happens when you try to control the people in your life (external) instead of the feelings inside ourselves (internal.) People are not for controlling. People are for loving.
Relationships are for keeping. Bonds are for strengthening.
We try to control others through lecturing, pouting, yelling, nagging, withdrawing, punishing, and labeling. We falsley believe that our world will fall apart when we give up control of other people. But the opposite is true. Once we give up trying to control others, we free them and ourselves to be who they truly are. We allow God to have His way inside of us, and inside of them.
This doesn’t mean you should stop setting limits, boundaries or expectations. It just means that you won’t get so bent out of shape when someone expresses his/her will, feelings, or needs. You accept them where they are at. You accept the world as it is, not as you want it to be.
This “acceptance” stuff is not easy. It requires God-sized strength. Recognizing that God wants to change our “internal situation” before he wants to change our “outside situation” is brutal. But God knows that the power comes when the inside is changed, not the outside. God knows that real happiness is possible in our internal world regardless of what is going on in our external world.
Controlling people is so… yesterday. Today is your day to focus on controlling the insides instead of the outsides. When you do, you’ll find that you communicate your needs, boundaries and expectations much better. You’ll find that your relationships get stronger instead of more distant.
For instance, to your scroungy teenager, you’ll say, “Oh geez, I’m feeling pretty embarrassed to be seen in public with you. I realize that’s my problem, and I will handle that. But I want to talk to you about this when we get home. I want to understand why the changes?”
With your spouse, you’ll say,”I’m so hurt that you spent that amount of money before talking to me. I want us to be partners, but when you do that, I feel unimportant.”
With your co-worker at the meeting you’ll say, “Boy, that’s not the way I see it. My experience of what happened is this…”
The hardships you face are meant to bring you into a surrendered relationship with God, yourself and others. Once you face the problem feelings inside of you, you will be able to decide with confidence how to respond to those conflicts with others.