If I were any of the characters from Friends, I would be Monica. It’s not her good cooking, although I like to think that is a definite similarity between us. It isn’t her penchant for cleaning, my aptitude for domestic goddess-ism is sporadic to say the least. And it isn’t Monica’s heart for her friends that unites us, although, again that is something that I hope we have in common. What makes me so sure that I am a “Monica” is my need to be in control…
Yes… My name is Lex and I am a control freak.
I’ve played with this blog theme for almost three weeks now, knowing that I’ve wanted to write something about control but feeling that it was maybe little bit too honest and vulnerable, even for one of my blogs. And then I was struck by the irony of wanting to write about being a control freak but being scared of being too vulnerable, in short scared of losing control of what people might know about me!
Control freak is one of those funny little terms that some wear as a badge of honour and others use as a filthy insult. When I apply the label “control freak” to myself its ok, its a cute little joke about a personality quirk. But if someone else calls me a control freak, I realise what an ugly name it is and what it is actually saying about me.
But why?! What is it about control that is so alluring to those of us who are Monicas? And is being a control freak so bad? Well if you would agree to take my hand and jaunt with me through this blog I’d like to unpack what I think about control, and what it means for me to be a control freak; and maybe set you a few challenges…
Imagine your life is split into three consecutive circles. The centre circle shows things that you have absolute control over; how you chose to live you life, how you dress, what you eat etc. The middle circle represents things that you have some influence and control over; how other people perceive you, your life situation etc. And the final circle holds those things that you have absolutely no control or influence over; how other people treat you, other people’s life situations and their impact on you etc. For me, being a control freak means trying to live my life entirely in my centre circle, or trying to make that centre circle bigger by pulling things from other circles into being within my control. It also means that the very idea of having an outside circle, things that I can’t control, is absolutely terrifying. I spend far too much time being aware of my “control circles”, obsessing over them and compensating for time spent in my outer circle by comforting myself with time spent in my inner circle.
What do I mean by that final sentence? Well it is something that we all do to one degree or another. Imagine you’ve had a rough day at work, you come home and what do you do? You get a takeaway, have a slightly larger glass of wine, you stop on the way home and buy yourself a little happy, you put on a tearjerker film or you go and exercise the bad day right out of your system (maybe even all of the above if the day really has been terrible!). When things have got out of control and we’re left feeling a little vulnerable we compensate for that feeling of a loss of control by changing the little things that we can influence. How much we eat, how much we drink, sleep, spend, exercise etc. Like I’ve said its a normal thing to do, but those of us who are Monicas take it to extremes. Changing the little things so much, so often and so strictly, as a means to feeling more able to cope with a world that otherwise feels completely out of control, even if those excessive changes to the little things are actually damaging to us. Controlling what we are able to, makes the things we can’t control seem a little more bearable.
Something that I have struggled with working in a boarding school is the fact that I don’t have a lot of control in my everyday life anymore. I don’t get to choose what I eat or when I go to bed and so in response to this I try to pull as much as I possibly can into the circle of things that I am able to control to make up for it.
I wonder how much of your time you spend living in your inner circle. I wonder if you are one of those people, like me, who is scared of the very idea of there being things in your life that you can’t control. I wonder how much of your time you spend controlling small things to make up for feeling vulnerable and out of control in the big things.
But where does God figure in this? Being a Christian and being a control freak isn’t an easy combination to balance. Christianity is a living relationship with God, being completely open and allowing God to have his way in our lives; not something easily accepted by people desperate to control everything. Submitting to God is something that, if I’m being very honest here, I struggle with everyday. I want to be in control, I need to be in control of my life and giving that up, even to God, scares the crap out of me!
When I feel at my most vulnerable and I have to control everything I set myself a daily challenge to relinquish the control of one thing- its terrifying, its uncomfortable, but its an important challenge to set myself. So in wrapping this up I’m setting us all two challenges, the first is to let something go. Not something massive, not something that will get you in trouble to let go of, but something that you don’t necessarily have to control all the time. It might feel uncomfortable, but it might be one of the most liberating things you could do! And the second challenge is to let someone else make a decision for you. Again not something that is going to get either of you in trouble, but a decision that you would otherwise have the control to make yourself. Again, it might feel uncomfortable to give control to someone else, but choose someone you trust and allow them to show you that you don’t always need to hold the reigns.
So finally, I pray for all of the Monicas in the world. I pray for those who struggle to give God the control, those obsessing over what they can and can’t change and finally those who are stuck controlling the little things to make a chaotic world feel safe.