Posts tagged “control

Real Freedom

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The topic of control is a big deal!

Many of us commit a lot of energy to trying to control others. This is a discouraging process that drains us emotionally and physically. Most importantly, trying to control others, usually the people we want to be the closest to, hurts our relationship with them. I feel there is a good chance that this “control” process is almost single-handedly responsible for the ridiculously high divorce rates.

We also commit a lot of energy and effort into trying to control ourselves. If we believe in a reward and punishment approach to life, and if we are using reward and punishment to try to control others, we will use those same tactics on ourselves. And, as you may have learned from experience, with pretty much the same ineffective results. In the same way that external control negatively affects our relationship with others, an external control approach negatively affects the relationship we have with ourselves, too. As self-control seems to elude us, we come to resent and even loathe ourselves.

With today being a Sabbath[1], a day of rest, our blog today will focus on some of the spiritual implications of control.

One of the most powerful themes of Jesus, at least for me, was the message that He came to set the captives free. Some took offense to this offer. When Jesus said “the truth will set you free,” the religious leaders of His day protested that they were descendants of Abraham and had never been slaves to anyone. “What do you mean,” they accusingly inquired, that “You will be set free?” (John 8:32, 33) A lot of us, though, know exactly what Jesus was talking about. Those who sin are slaves of sin. (John 8:34) We get caught in the sticky webs of our own behavior and like Paul, who admitted that he couldn’t seem to do right, even when he really wanted to do right, can only cry out in desperation, “Oh, what a miserable person I am. Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?”[2] (Romans 7:24)

Peter agreed that  “you are a slave to whatever controls you.” (2 Peter 2:19) And a little book called Steps to Christ[3] explains that “What we do not overcome will overcome us.”  (p.33) Regardless of our culture, nationality, or religious background, this is what human beings are up against. Either we are becoming more trapped within our own physical and psychological appetites, feeling almost like we are in chains to silly or destructive habits, or we are becoming more free, more in control of our thinking and our acting.

I think that God appreciates choice theory. He created us with free will and He died to preserve our power to choose. He doesn’t want us to stop with just choice theory, though. Choice theory can help to explain our behavior, but it can’t change our hearts. That kind of change requires Holy Spirit help, which He offers freely and immediately. Amazing! The Bible writer, Titus, partly captured this truth when he wrote that “He [Jesus] gave His life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us His very own people.” (Titus 2:14)

It is draining to constantly be involved in controlling others and ourselves. The whole control thing can be distressing to say the least. Jesus offers us something different, though. “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28) Don’t worry about things. Don’t worry about what you wear, don’t worry about food, don’t worry about tomorrow, don’t worry about the behavior of others. “Seek the kingdom of God, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matt. 6:25-7:5)

The adversary, Satan, wants to trap, enslave, chain, and addict. But Jesus’ promise is as real today as when He first proclaimed it – “I have come to set the captives free!”


[1] The seventh-day Sabbath is known for being a Jewish custom, but this is not entirely correct. Jewish people do observe Saturday Sabbath, however I am not Jewish, yet still observe this weekly gift of rest. The Sabbath was instituted at the creation of the world, before there were any nationalities or cultures. The Sabbath was included in the Ten Commandments many hundreds of years after creation, but the wording is significant. “Remember the Sabbath day,” the fourth commandment reminds. It wasn’t something new for the Hebrews after leaving captivity. The Sabbath was a day that God gave to all creation as His special gift. Even in the perfect world He originally created He must have known it would be good for us to truly rest one day out of seven. With the entrance of sin into the world and the pressures it brought to bear on us, His gift is all the more important. “Take it easy,” He gently encourages us. “Come apart from your busyness, your worries, and your to-do lists. Let’s hang out together during this special day.” After all, the earth is God’s coffee shop.

[2] The answer is Jesus! Romans 7:25

[3] Steps to Christ, by Ellen White, is an incredible book on spirituality and the power of choice.

Stringless Love

strings-attached

A key choice theory axiom, maybe THE choice theory axiom, states that the only person we can control is ourselves. This doesn’t mean that we don’t try to control others. We very often do, and in ways that are so subtle that we aren’t aware of it, even as we are in the midst of doing it. Today’s blog will attempt to pull back the curtain of our behavior and give examples of just how powerful this process is, a process that has everything to do with our quality world pictures.

When it comes to axiom #1 it would be more accurate to say that we are controlling for our perceptions, rather than controlling our own or another’s behavior. In other words, the only person’s perceptions we can control is our own. Let me give you an example that Mike (not his real name) shared with me recently –

The other day I am out shopping with my wife, each of us with a list of items to find, and while working on my list I notice her further down the same aisle I am in. I see her and for some reason I want to go to her and express my affection for her, to touch her, you know, to “look lovingly into her eyes” kind of thing. So I’m thinking about that as I’m standing there in the bread section. Some of you may be thinking, “What are you waiting for? Go tell her you love her!” But it’s not exactly that simple. We’re working through some stuff. We’re doing good, but anyway .  .  .

For some reason the question occurs to me, there in the bread section, am I wanting to express my affection to her because I just want to give her affection, or am I wanting to express affection so that she will give me affection in return? Am I wanting to touch her because she would then touch me, too? As I thought about it, I realized that what I really wanted was for her to want me, for her to express affection for me, and for her to touch me. I did feel affection toward her, but more importantly, I was fishing for something from her. My gift was not so much a gift, as much as it was a prompt, maybe even a bit of a trap.

I must admit I was stopped in my tracks at that moment. What you had been saying in the Soul Shapers class kind of just flashed into me. I had this picture in my mind of how I wanted my wife and I to be, how I wanted her to treat me, and there I was trying to create it, trying to turn my picture into a reality. I was stunned at how subtle, yet how real, the process was in my thinking. I was further stunned by how many years I had been behaving this way. My “affection” was really a form of manipulation.

Mike realized that his “love” had strings attached. He was giving, but it was giving to get something in return. When his giving wasn’t responded to in a way that matched his expectations he became frustrated and hurt, and then went about creating another behavior to try to get what he wanted. Maybe this new behavior would be another “loving” action; maybe it would be a punishing action like the silent treatment.

Spouses face this process every day. So does a teacher with his/her students. People have antennae that discern the strings that are attached to gifts. Love with strings attached really isn’t love. Let’s be clear, though. The problem isn’t that we have expectations, at least if the expectations are reasonable and healthy, the problem occurs when we manipulate or coerce to get what we want. It is actually relationship-strengthening to state your expectation and then, using the caring habits, discuss and negotiate the ways in which that expectation can happen.

——   “Love with strings attached really isn’t love.”   ——

On a deeper and more important level, I think this process reveals something about what the presence of sin has brought to our little planet. Jeremiah wrote about our righteousness being like filthy rags, or in other words, even our love seems to involve selfishness. I think the process also reveals one of choice theory’s limitations – that being that choice theory can give us insights into our behavior, but it cannot change the heart. Only the Holy Spirit can give us a perfect love that doesn’t care about strings. Stringless love. That would be powerful.

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