As I drove to work friday morning, I could not help but notice the sunrise unfolding right in front of me. Pinks, oranges, and yellows charged in from the east and worked together to effectively push the purples and blues that held dominion further and further west. And I thought: I had nothing to do with that.
Now, don’t ask me why that was my first thought. Usually, if I notice the sunrise at all, I think about how beautiful it is and say thank you to God for it. I don’t know why I thought about my part to play in the start of the morning (or lack of a part to play), but I did.
And of course, my thoughts don’t stop with this solitude idea. I began to think about what is in my life that I do have some influence. With my recent focus on writing, I immediately went to my stories, my characters’ stories. I began to hash out a new scene to write.
The problem is, I wondered how much I really control their worlds either. Don’t misunderstand me, I know the are creations of my own imagination, but there are times when I write a scene and they seem to say: Really? You really think I would do that or think that, or say that? Do you not even know who I am?
Do I know my characters? Perhaps well enough to let them dictate their own scenes rather than trying to force them into a scene that doesn’t fit them, that doesn’t flow.
And that made me think of my influences outside of my fantasy worlds and created characters. Do I know the people around me well enough to let them live out their lives instead of forcing them into molds that I’ve deemed right for them?
In most relationships it would be downright creepy or dangerous for me to even think I could dictate their actions, thoughts, and words. If I tried, it would be manipulative at best. At worst, it would border enslavement or dictatorship.
I say that in most relationships this would be a no-brainer: you don’t control another person. What about a parent-child relationship, though? How far do I as a father take my “guiding” my children “on the path they should go” (Proverbs 22:6 – a common proverb Christian parents are fond of quoting)?
It’s a tough question, and one that everyone has an opinion. I believe a couple of things, though.
First, the “path they should go” actually means “the path they are going”. I believe that as a father, I’m supposed to equip them for that path, not pick it for them.
Second, I agree with what Hal Runkle said: I am not “responsible for” my children, but “responsible to” them. (It’s in his Scream-Free Parenting book, and probably other places, too). That means I help them, I equip them, I teach them, and I love them. I do not control them.
So, I have no control over the sun’s rising in the mornings. I really don’t have any control over the thoughts, actions, or words of the people around me. Not even my children. I don’t even really have all that much control over the characters in my stories!
What do I have control over?
Me. That’s it. Just me. I have control over my actions, thoughts, and words. I have control over how I relate to everyone around me, especially those I love. I also don’t let them control me, which means I don’t let their words or actions dictate my responses. (Obviously that’s easier said than done).
And I think that’s all the control I really ever need.