Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Out of Control

the myth of "control" is something we all deal with.  how often do i find myself thinking, "if only [some loved one or acquaintance] would act in the way i want, that person's, and my, life would be so much better (or easier or any number of pleasant adjectives)."  yet, others don't exist to make my life, or yours, more pleasant in some way.  another person's life is not ours to control as much as we wish that we had that power.

what, then, do we do about these "controlling" thoughts.  we all have them.  just yesterday, i listened as a friend went on at length about the bad habits of a mutual friend, saying several times, "why can't he see that he needs to [substitute any desirable action].  then all our lives would be so much better."  there are, i think, several things we need to do with such thoughts.

first, we have to accept that we have them; we all wish that the world would conform to our ideal and that everyone else would fall into line.  there's nothing wrong with such thoughts, so long as we recognize that we only imagine that in a perfect world what we desire is best for all concerned, that such a point-of-view is a fiction that can never, nor should never, come to pass.  once we've admitted that we can't and shouldn't control the behavior of others, we can move on to learning to appreciate others for what they are.  what we see as their faults, others may see as strengths, and appreciating the whole person rather than dwelling on perceived shortcomings makes life so much more satisfactory for all of us.

here's where being mindful is helpful.  when we step aside and view our controlling thoughts in a reasonable, detached way, we see them for what they are: fictions, stories we're telling ourselves.  there's nothing "wrong" about these make-believe tales about "improving" our friends, loved ones, bosses, employees, peers, or human-kind in general, but it's not our job.  Our job is to develop a joyful appreciation of each person, warts and all.

my prayer today is that each of us (me especially) will learn to stop yearning for the fiction that we call "control."  instead, may we accept life and those we encounter each day.  may we relish our interactions with every person, loving them just as they are.  shalom.

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