I can’t control everything. But I can control some things. Knowing the difference between what I can control and what I can’t control helps me stay balanced.
I can’t control my husband. He will sometimes (okay, rarely) say it wrong or do it wrong. He will sometimes work longer than I wish he would or come home later than he should. He may cut me off in conversation or fail to thank me for my hard work. He may disagree with my parenting tactic or disengage when I need to connect.
I can’t control any of that.
But I can control myself. I can control my reactions and responses. I can control the tone of my voice and the words I use. I can choose to use no words at all. I can choose to go along or I can choose to do the extra thing, just because I love him. I can choose to dwell on all his good qualities (and there are many) instead of his short-comings (which are few). I can choose forgiveness over resentment, even when I’m right. I can choose to be okay, even if I’m misunderstood. I can choose to overlook the offense. I can choose a smile and an embrace. I can choose words that make him feel like he can do anything he sets his mind to. I can step back and let him lead. I can shut my mouth.
I can’t control my kids. They will bicker and fight and forget to make their beds or scoop the kitty litter. They will lie, and then lie about the lie. They will sneak candy into their rooms—and maybe someday even a beer or a cigarette or bottle of pills. They will complain about chores and homework and bedtimes and boundaries. They will scoff at my questions and be thoroughly embarrassed when I chaperone the party or show up at the movie theater. They will talk back and challenge my authority. They will make some stupid decisions and choose some stupid friends. They will act like they don’t know me, can’t hear me and don’t like me.
I can’t control any of that.
But I can control myself. I can choose patience over impatience and peace over frustration. I can choose to discipline when it’s easier to ignore. And I can choose to ignore when it’s easier to nitpick. I can choose to let consequences naturally unfold instead of lecturing. I can choose to focus on how far they’ve come instead of how far they still have to go. I can choose to walk away instead of yell. I can choose to listen instead of talk. I can choose to lavish grace on them instead of dolling out every last punishment I think they deserve. I can choose to create an atmosphere of fun instead of stress and tension. I can choose to pray for wisdom and seek godly counsel. I can choose to release my grip and let God protect them. I can choose to model a life submitted to God. I can choose to point them toward the only One who can save their souls.
I can’t control what others think of me. Some people will think I’m too opinionated and too loud. Some people will think I should have been there to help, to rescue, or to save and will resent me when I was wasn’t and didn’t. Some people will get frustrated when I say no or when I say yes. Some people will think I’m a bad mom, bad wife, bad friend. Some people will think my writing is shallow and my Bible studies irrelevant. Some people won’t like what I said and some people won’t like that I said nothing. Some people will think I’m selfish and rude and hypocritical and ungodly and arrogant and ugly and not-at-all funny.
I can’t control any of that.
But I can control myself. I can choose to pray for those who hurt me, rather than wallow in my anger toward them. I can choose to believe the best, knowing that I never truly know the whole story. I can choose to extend grace, realizing that people who hurt are hurt people. I can remember that every person—whether she reveals it or not—is fighting a battle. I can choose to believe my identity comes from the One who created me and breathed His life in me—not from another member of His creation.
I can’t control everything on the calendar. Because I share a home and a life with four other people, our lives will sometimes collide. Sometimes my husband has to be at a dinner meeting at the exact time I’m supposed to be at the school meeting which is the exact time my daughter needs to be at youth group and my son needs to be at basketball and my youngest needs to be with someone because she’s too little to be alone. Sometimes I’ll have to attend events simply because I’m the mom or the wife or the church member. Sometimes, even when we diligently pursue simplicity, nothing is simple.
I can’t control that.
But I can control some things. I can choose to carefully consider the consequences before I say yes to every activity, recital, sporting event and social gathering. I can choose to organize my days and weeks so I am not wasting hours driving from place to place. I can choose to keep an updated calendar so I don’t accidentally overbook the family. I can choose to pray over big commitments, knowing every decision I make about my time effects the whole family. I can choose to make the most of every opportunity.
I can’t control the weather or whether my kids get sick.
I can’t control when tragedy strikes or a kids strikes out at the game.
I can’t control how many e-mails, voice mails and pieces of mail I will receive today.
But I can control my focus. Instead of focusing on the terrible weather or the sickness or the tragedy or the piles of mail, I can focus on my blessings. I can focus on the Lord and the fact that He loves me infinitely and is with me indefinitely. I can focus on the way He always provides for my needs—even when I don’t recognize them until well after the fact . Even if I don’t see the provision now, I can choose to believe the promise in His word that He will provide. I can choose to focus on God’s goodness, His grace. I can choose kindness over defensiveness and bravery over fear. I can choose to seek for something every day that’s unique and special and miraculous. Because there is always something unique and special and miraculous in every single day. But I have to choose to see it.
I can’t control everything. In fact, the longer I live the more I realize how very little I do control.
But I can control me. I can always control me.
And that makes all the difference.
This is Part 16 of a series entitled Better Balance in 2013. For all the posts in this series, click here.