We all have different and unique personalities. As different as we all are, we either tend to be positive or negative with various degrees of a controlling factor. We all know that a glass can be half empty or half full, but have you ever thought about "Whose glass is it?" Who is in control? Who is in charge?
We try to control in many ways. One major way is by controlling how others view us — controlling the self-image. If I can control how you see me, then I can control you because I then control how you think. If you see my car parked outside of my office at 6:30 a.m. every morning, then you'll probably think what a dedicated worker I am. You then tell me how impressed you are with me that I am there so early every morning. I now have a choice: Do I tell you the truth and let you know I just left the car there overnight, or do I continue the image-making? I could lie — I'm not above lying.
You may now pat me on the back and tell me how wonderful I am; what a man of God I am. You would have a high opinion of me. In reality, I have totally manipulated and controlled the information you have about me. Hopefully, you will like me better or love me more. Unfortunately, I really don't know if you like me or not, because you don't know the "real" me. On the flip side, I could tell you that I didn't even know there was a 6:30 a.m., and I was just too lazy to drive my car home the night before, which is closer to the truth. (I have heard rumors that there are two 6:30s — I've only seen the one in the afternoon.)
At this point, we would be dealing with each other truthfully. If I choose to continue the charade, I need to have my car there every morning at 6:30 a.m. That's going to take a lot of energy to keep up the façade. It's very tiring maintaining a false image. You would be surprised how many people live their entire lives trying to control what others think about them. People who like to control should be singing "I'm exhausted, Oh Lord" rather than "I exalt You, Oh Lord."
Controlling behavior not only makes you feel tired, it makes you feel badly. If I let you think that I am there every morning at that early hour, I feel pretty badly because I know I've lied. I will always have an underlying insecurity that if you knew the truth, you really would not think so highly of me. So even when you are showing kindness to me and appear to like me, I still feel badly. What do I do when I'm feeling badly about myself? I find something that makes me feel good. People try different ways — medication, alcohol, or food. Personally, I head to a quick shop for a Big Gulp of Diet Coke. For really bad days, I add Snickers, Twinkies, or Ding Dongs.
This is one of the paradoxes of life. So many people spend all their time and energy trying to control what they can't control, and then they have no time or energy to control what they really can do something about. I think it is the main reason that it's so hard to be upright without being uptight, which is downright funny. I call it camel comedy because these are paradoxes that Jesus talked about — losing your life to find it, the last shall be first, coming as a little child, and so forth.
Children know they have no control. They start saying at a young age, "Me do it. Me do it," but their earthly father knows they can't. How do children cope when they can't do it? They laugh a lot. Children laugh about four hundred times a day, and adults laugh about fifteen times a day. Somewhere along the way to adulthood we become serious and think we can control. We become over-controllers and under-laughers. Remember, laughing is a form of letting go. You let go only when you believe God will not let go of you. The paradox is that by letting go you are really holding on. By giving up control, you are really finding control. It is the difference between depending on will power or a Higher power.
Life is a gentle reminder (or maybe a screaming reminder) that we aren't in control of much of anything. Giving up control helps us move from seeing ourselves as the center of the universe to a place where we can relax and enjoy life. Now if you are wondering if I mean to the right of center or the left of center, I have a message for you:
"You have never been in control and you never will be, so laugh or at least smile."
Charles Lowery is founder and president of LIFE, Inc. and is in a fulltime speaking ministry. You may contact LIFE, Inc. at 903-881-9422 or www.charleslowery.com.