The topic of control came up with a meeting of friends this evening. For the most part, we agreed that the feeling of being “in control”, especially of other people, was largely an illusion. We also recounted the serenity prayer, where we accept the things we cannot change (or in this case, control). Most also felt it was important to accept responsibility for those parts of our own lives, mainly our own thoughts and actions, that we do have some level of control over.
I know there were periods of time in my own life when I thought if I just worked hard enough and got others to see things my way, I could be in control of not only outcomes, but other people as well. Sometimes the attempt to control others came through trying to appease them…saying what I thought they wanted to hear, doing what they wanted me to do. Without giving much thought to whether I was being rigorously honest with my words and actions.
I’m still far from perfect in this respect. I think a part of it comes from my life-long profession as a classroom teacher. Thirty-eight years of trying to get your students to behave in particular ways and learn what they’re supposed to learn can make you that way. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized people are going to be who they are and do what they’re going to do, with or without my “permission.”
The best thing I can do for myself and for others today is to carefully contemplate my thoughts, words, and deeds, and let others do the same for themselves. I don’t always know what’s best for myself, so why would I think I know what’s best for anyone else.