Control freaks don’t actually solve problems. They make us cranky, anxious, and they’re unpleasant to be around. Micromanagement strangles the life out of everyone around them.
I’ve been collecting data about this exact problem for weeks now, from my own life and from the lives of other people who shall remain nameless. I’ve been driving people crazy and other people have been driving me crazy. Because we are all control freaks, my friends.
My pastor is even preaching a sermon series on this, so yesterday I got to hear an excellent sermon that coincided directly with my thoughts for weeks. While Jason has to preach with some sensitivity and grace, I can be more blunt on the blog. I’m going to say what he can’t say from the pulpit– Let’s all knock it off. Let’s stop the micromanagement of petty details and things beyond our realm of control.
What we can control:
Now, we are always in control of a few things: our attitude and the words that come out of our mouths, for starters. I don’t know about you, but I don’t yet have a reliably good attitude or kind and gracious words, so I obviously have enough work in my own heart that I don’t need to be piddling around with other people’s attitudes, hearts, words, or responsibilities.
Perhaps I should get my heart and words exactly lined up with the Holy Spirit, then maybe I could feel free to tell others how to manage themselves, and tell God how to handle my problems.
From Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak:
It is so much easer to deal with the external world, to spend our lives manipulating material and institutions and other people instead of dealing with our own souls. We like to talk about the outer world as if it were infinitely complex and demanding, but it is a cakewalk compared to the labyrinth of our inner lives! (p. 82)
But wait– I’m still super annoyed at their mess.
I know life is aggravating. Heck, people are aggravating! When things change unexpectedly, when others don’t see the genius behind our ideas, when we’re forced to share space with people who do it all wrong– the control freak comes out in us. We assume that since we’re in a dither God has forsaken us, so we take matters into our own hands.
We fuss, we pout. We fume, we whine. We hone our manipulation skills until they’re a sharp, deadly instrument that can be used to skewer anyone who gets in our way.
Maybe there’s a better way, though. I’d like to talk about a story in Daniel, chapter 3. Daniel and his friends had refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar, knowing full well they were about to get barbecued in a walk-in oven for their defiance. They said this in response to this unpleasant situation:
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18, NLT)
The new approach for control freaks:
This hands-off, fully trusting in God approach makes me twitch because I do not enjoy getting burned alive. Here’s how a control freak would handle the problem instead:
- Review situation in full, as soon as the heralds began the announcements. Spend many hours in whiney review with friends, expressing full displeasure with God’s provision and the government’s poor choices.
- Find another place to be for actual event. Perhaps a convenient illness, trip back East, or a convention for high-ranking Babylonian officials would be in order. Whatever gets me out of the range of the fire would be perfect.
- Find all possible options for getting rules changed to our advantage at event. Speak to other high-ranking officials. Date the king’s daughter. Plan a coup with neighboring nation. Get king assassinated, if necessary.
Whatever the situation demands, a control freak will rise to the occasion. Because, once again, we do not enjoy getting burned alive.
But Daniel and his friends let go of the situation, trusted God, and did what they need to do. They focused on pleasing God, and God took care of the rest.
What would happen in our individual situations if we just backed off? I’d like to try to let God handle the situation while I stand back with full confidence in his leadership, and I’d like to see some other people try it too.
Any thoughts on being a control freak? I’d like to hear them. (Even if they’re just really good stories about other control freaks you may know…)