“For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
One of the greatest learning moments in my life, was when a therapist friend told me, “You cannot control other people, but you can control how you respond.” Brilliant! When we focus on how others treat us or respond, we can feel helpless and incredibly frustrated. When we focus on how we respond with integrity, we begin to take back some level of control.
A number of years ago, I had a friend who lost his job in a way he found blatantly unfair. Without income, and all the added stress, his marital problems increased, and his wife left him. He was reeling with numerous emotions, everything from guilt, to shame, to anger, to resentment, to humiliation. The emotions alone were crippling. He came into my office and unloaded his despair. His words just spilled out of him until he was physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.
I shared with him my therapist friend’s statement, “You cannot control other people, but you can control how you respond.” After a couple of visits, getting much of his feelings out in the open, he was able to decipher the difference between the situations he could control, and the situations beyond his control. He made a commitment to not obsess on those situations he couldn’t control. He couldn’t control his wife’s feelings and decisions. He couldn’t control his former employer’s decision.
He could control his own emotional, spiritual and physical health. He started seeing a therapist for his emotional well-being. He got back into church and started going to the men’s group. He got a gym membership and actually started going at least three days per week. He also made a commitment to himself to remain optimistic, remain connected to friends and family, and face his life challenges head on.
He couldn’t control his marital situation and they ended up divorcing. He found a good head-hunter, who helped him find another job that provided an even better future. Over the next year and a half, his physical, emotional, spiritual health improved and he became stronger than before his crisis. He would never chose to go through that crisis again in his life, but he could see that even a horrific situation could be overcome, and new doors hope and well-being could open anew.
Today, think about the challenges you face in life. What are you obsessing on that you cannot control? Is there a treadmill of doubt and shame you can pull the plug on? Begin by intentionally acknowledging what you can and cannot control. Then, make a plan to move forward, trusting God will guide you to a new place of health and well-being. God bless you, as you move forward in your process of wholeness.