I still struggle with issues around “control” – what I can control and what I can’t – what should I try to control and what should I just accept.
It is oddly easy to give up trying to control the world for my own selfish reasons – to give up the pretence that I could control others to give me what I thought I wanted. It is less easy to give up trying to make people see things my way, when they are so obviously wrong (in my eyes!)
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.
Another person I know is slowly self-destructing – I can see it, and the sad thing is, so can they. And so I want to control them out of their self-destructive behaviors and make them well – what is wrong with that?
Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to help him, to be a place he can share in safely, even to offer suggestions of things he might try. But I cannot make him take my advice, no matter how good it is. I can’t control his actions and his thoughts.
In the end, it’s all summed up in this version of the Serenity Prayer that I heard a while ago:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change,
courage to change the one I can,
and wisdom to know it’s me.