Controlling and Letting Go
Thanks to our artists, we all pretend well; but deep down the layer of pretense is the awareness of the underlying reality. To suppress that reality, we turn to controlling, which is a subconscious way to enhance the reality of our expectations in life.
Most of us are controlling to some extent. Thanks to our culture, underlying every one of us is the inherent belief that we should be in control of everything around us at all times. The American culture advocates control for self-independence and survival.
What exactly is controlling? Why makes people want to control others as well as their own destinies?
Controlling is a coward way of running away from everyday problems; it is a futile attempt to avoid everyday stress. Essentially, it is a direct or subtle way of exerting influence over others so that we may have power over the turns of events in our own lives. In other words, we delude ourselves into thinking that we can make things happen the way we want them to happen in our lives through control and manipulation of others, including ourselves.
Control and discipline may look similar but they are different.
Case in Point
We can discipline our children so that they may do the right things without getting into trouble. But many of us still want to “control” them even when they have turned adults; we may want to steer them away from the difficult paths we had trotted ourselves when we were young. That, in reality, is controlling. We can give them advice, but imposing anything on them is deemed as exerting control. “It’s for their own good!” is no more than an excuse to control.
Not controlling means willingness in letting go of one’s expectations in life.
Case in Point
The Biblical story of the parable of the prodigal son is a good illustration of what is NOT controlling. (Luke 15: 11-32) In the story, a man had two sons, and the younger son asked for his fortune; the father gave it to him, and he spent it recklessly on women and gambling. When he was out of money and the land was struck by a famine, he returned home to his father, who welcomed him back with open arms. To many, the story highlights God's forgiveness of repentant sinners. But the story also illustrates the power of letting go and not controlling.
If I were the father of the prodigal son, would I have given him the inheritance due to him knowing that he would squander it?
Clearly, in addition to being wayward, the younger son was rebellious, asking for his inheritance before the time was due. If the father had said “no” to his son's request, he would be seen as “controlling” the destiny of his son. The father must have admonished his son for his reckless behavior. So, saying “no” to his son’s request should be viewed more as “controlling” than as “disciplining” his son. It must be pointed out that the father must have anticipated the possible tragic outcome of giving his son his inheritance. Nevertheless, the father gave him the money; he was, in fact, saying “yes” to the realities of life. He would sacrifice his life expectations to give his son an opportunity to learn the valuable lesson from the potential life-transforming changes that might befall on him.
In the Biblical story, the ending was favorable because the father put his trust in God, who oversees the big picture. For those who do not believe in God or divine intervention, the story could have ended the same way too. Why? It is because events and things in nature follow a natural course or pattern. We should go with the natural flow rather than fighting against it. Spontaneity brings harmony, while resistance results in disharmony. If the prodigal son wanted his inheritance, there was no way to stop him. If he would squander his money, he would do the same then or later when he duly inherited his money after his father's death. The objective was not to avoid the spending through controlling but to let the son learn a valuable lesson from the spending. Of course, in real life, the ending could have been tragic: the son spent the money and never came home—but, again, that is life!
If you stop controlling, you are learning to let go. If you let go, you are learning how not to control.
Copyright© by Stephen Lau