There is a struggle with the idea of “control”: what can we truly control and what have we no control over? What should we try to control and what should we simple accept.
It is often easy to give up trying to control the world for our own selfish reasons – to give up the pretence that we can control others to give us what we think we need. It is less easy to give up trying to make people see things our way, when they are so obviously wrong.
A while ago I had correspondence with someone who was sure that I was a radical atheist, hell-bent on oppressing religious views everywhere I saw them. As someone who considers themselves a Christian, it’s disturbing to me when other people who call themselves Christians have such a fundamentalist view that any suggestion that there is any other view is jumped on as an example of anti-Christian bias.
What I really wanted to do was change them, make them realize that far from helping people see “the truth”, they were only alienating people. And I only wanted it for them for their own good – or did I?
The truth is that even in this there was ego involved – I want everyone that professes the same faith as me to be nice, so that I don’t need to feel bad. I don’t want to be associated with that sort of “hit them over the head till they admit they are wrong” sort of rhetoric.
But I can’t control them. No matter how “right” I am, or how “wrong” they are, I can’t control them.
We often fall into this way of thinking – maybe we see someone slowly destroying themselves through their own actions. We want to control them out of their self-destructive behaviors and make them well – what is wrong with that?
The answer is that there is nothing wrong with wanting to help others, to be a place where they can share in safely, even to offer suggestions of things that might help them.
But we cannot make him take our advice, no matter how good it is. We cannot stop them hurting themselves, no matter how obvious the harm is.
Not we “should not”, but we “cannot”. We have no direct control over any one else’s thoughts or actions.
In the end, no matter why I want to exercise control, it seems that they only one I can really control is myself.