“Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.”Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
As I read through the fourth chapter of James I hear one word over and over – control. Even the most passive among us desire control. Control over our decisions, over what jobs we want, over people around us, over people not even around us. Control over our thoughts, your thoughts, over our emotions and yes, over yours. I know a woman who is incredibly sweet and demure. She defers to everyone. She’s a chronic apologizer. You know those folks — they apologize when you are late. It’s seems to be a uniquely female quirk. She is discovering, with God, the woman she’s supposed to be. But what she also wants is to control the emotional outcome for every situation. By thinking we have that type of control over others frequently leads us to decisions resulting in the exact opposite outcomes.
Ouch. Again. There’s that “log in your eye” message. You know, the one that says, before you worry about the speck in someone else’s eye, first remove the log out of your own. In modern times it’s called “baggage.” Why does the sweet, demure woman desire control over emotional outcomes of others? We frequently make decisions to protect ourselves from negative situations. Negative situations we probably experienced growing up. We are either in protect mode or attack mode to keep us from getting harmed. Our triggers call for us to “shields up” (for all you Star Trek nerds). We start playing chess matches of one. Trying to predict if we say or do something we can outmaneuver our adversary. Our human desire to control and predict our lives is fertile ground for satan to work his wicked ways.
the (perceived) power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events.
I added the “perceived” part because so often we think we have control when we don’t — causing the friction within ourselves. In the realm of God there’s only one type of “control” He wants us to seek – self-control. For when we seek to control our minds, our tongues, our bodies, based on His desires, only then can we find true peace. I love the expectation God has for us to build upon our faith.
Self-control is smack dab in the middle. With knowledge of what God expects of us we must then set our minds and behavior up against that knowledge and control them. And without self-control we cannot persevere. Pretty logical. Without self-control with my diet I won’t make it to my goal. Without self-control over my tongue my marriage might not survive. Without self-control over my body I might put myself in physical harm.
The ability to control oneself, in particular one’s emotions and desires or the expression of them in one’s behavior, especially in difficult situations.
Between trying to control others or self-control, only one of these are we guaranteed to be successful at on a regular basis. The rest, shall we say, needs to be left to God. Self-control is when we make a commitment to commune with God and study His Word each morning. It’s when we are faced with a conflict we are slow to speak and quick to listen. It’s when we are tempted by food, drink, anger, sex, (fill in the blank) and we turn our mind to God and His Truth – not the truth we are conjuring up in our minds to justify wrong-mindedness.
This chapter of James tells us to lose our grip. Not on our minds but to lose our grips on our relationships, our big plans, our need to know “what’s next.” It’s scary. We are all control-freaks in one way or another. But really, how well has that been working out for you thus far?