Control is something we have and don’t have at the same time. On the one hand, we had no control over our birth, who our parents would be, the color of our skin, or if we were gifted to be strong or smart. And all of these factors set certain conditions for our life that were also outside of our control. But while we must contend with many realities we cannot control, we remain in control of how we respond to our lot in life and who we become as a result. And wisdom reminds us to dance with both sides of this equation.
To be sure, we tend to think in absolutes when life tends to be more complex.
For instance, some believe that they’re in complete control of their life – denying the significance of any external factors. At its extreme, they believe they’re the ultimate masters of their own fate and the gods of their own universe.
At the other extreme are those who believe life simply happens to them – denying any sense of personal responsibility. And at this extreme individuals are prone to play the victim and consistently blame others for their lot in life.
The dance of control calls us to humbly accept those things we cannot govern without giving up our duty to take care of those things we still can.
It’s arrogant to believe we can control everything. But it’s false humility to assume we’re passive victims in life. Anger and anxiety are the result when we believe everything is under our control and the realities of life remind us otherwise. And resentment and depression are more likely when life feels unfair and we feel powerless to do anything about it.
In the end, learn to dance with the control you both have and don’t have – taking responsibility for the choices you can make, while humbly remembering you cannot control everything.