His thoughts were like a Twitter stream of self-doubt.
He perpetually feared his words had given offense. He worried that he had left some important task undone, that he had botched some critical element in a project, or that he had let someone down. He was a great disappointment to those about him, of that he was sure. And every blink of the answering machine held a portent of doom. Every email hinted, in what was left unsaid, at failure, inadequacy, and rejection.
It paralyzed him. Not physically, of course. He could still walk and eat and fiddle things in his fingers. But his will was a desiccated husk, buried beneath a dung heap of worry. As our prayer group suggested ideas for progress, he countered every one with reasons why it couldn’t work.
He had almost forgotten his power to declare “This, I will do.” Long unused, through loss of faith in them, were the skills he once deployed in pursuit of his declarations: the freedom to dream, the clarity to plan, the courage to decide. And the power to act and to work, even in small incremental steps, toward his dreams.
He lost control because he surrendered it.
He surrendered control because he fixed his mind on things beyond his control.
He feared these things, and he spent his best energies fighting imagined scenarios of these fears. The more he fought to exercise control over these phantoms, the less power he felt to pursue his dreams. Repeat the cycle.
It’s a simple principle. Fix your attention and energies on that over which you have control, and your influence and mastery expand. Waste your attention and energies on things over which you have no control, and your influence contracts.
Jesus taught: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:5). Yes, the broader passage is about judging others – but isn’t judging others another way of claiming control over them?
There are many things I cannot control: the economy, other people’s feelings and actions, politics, the ecosystem, the future.
However there are many things within my control: My action in the moment chief among them. We all make decisions every day – decisions about what food we consume, how we spend our time, how we will react, what thoughts go through our heads. No one can decide what we think – unless we let them decide it.
We have immense power and we exercise it every moment in the moment as we choose our actions and our mindset and our attitude.
(oh, how this rattles against my theology. What then of the sovereignty of God? What then of the bondage of the human will? What then of the Holy Spirit? – those questions will have to linger for another post)
How will you use your power today?