Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Comfort control

This is the last in my sporadic series on control. Other posts are here, here, here and here.

A popular feature in higher-end cars for some time has been Electronic Automatic Temperature Control. In fact, nowadays it’s not unusual to find two- or three-zone temperature controls so that driver, front passenger and rear passengers can all have a say in their own comfort.

We love to control our environment, and I think it’s because we are comfortable doing things over which we have control. We love our remote controls for our TVs, garage doors, ceiling fans, lights and so on. We love putting in our ear buds or putting on our noise-cancelling headphones to control what goes into our ears. We like to control what comes into our home on TV and the internet, so we install parental controls and filters. We control what goes into our bodies, so we watch our diet (or not), and we keep our divinely revealed health code (or not).

In fact, we rightly tout the virtue of self-control, praising someone who has the discipline to train as an athlete or musician, praising those who overcome adversity by their sheer grit and determination, praising students who earn great grades.

The Lord’s Plan of Happiness reminds us, however, that there are limits to our control. In the grand council in Heaven, we agreed to a plan that would allow us agency and accountability for our choices; we rejected an alternative that would have guaranteed our safe return and yielded honor and glory to the guarantor, Lucifer. (It’s worth noting that both of those provisions are offensive, though we tend to focus on the first just as I’m doing here.)

Even God Himself did not control Pharaoh as Moses sought the release of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. God offered consequences for Pharaoh’s choices, but he could not force Pharaoh to comply. And Pharaoh only complied with God’s will once the pain of not complying was great enough. Whether God could or could not force Pharaoh to comply is a moot question: the fact is he did not.

As I’ve written in this series, I have struggle personally with the issue of control in my life. I have at times overshot the mark in trying to control my children’s behavior, trying to control outcomes in conflicts and trying to control circumstances that were clearly beyond my control.

Albert Einstein is credited with the idea that insanity is trying the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. In trying to exert control where I do not have it, I have lived that definition, and the results are not pretty. I’m fortunate that they people who matter most to me are gracious and forgiving and that our relationships are intact despite my human frailties.

As I have worked over time to sort out what I do and do not control (not what I should or should not control), I have found increased peace in letting go of the things that are not mine and focusing on the things that are.

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