Over the past few years, God has had me looking at how the issue of control and free will work together. This is the crux of why relationships are so difficult and yet also so rewarding! We know the downside, but what is the UPGRADE in those moments when your will and my will are seemingly, or definitely, in conflict? I am the only female in a household of 7. You can bet I face this often!
The all-too-often experience of most of us is that we come up against an issue where we are looking at a situation where our values, descriptions, or opinions differ from another person’s and we feel instant irritation, rejection, offense, anger, or any other negative response. We often have our focus on the other person and how wrong they are for one reason or another. I would propose that we simultaneously have our focus on ourselves in that we want what we want AND we want it without that annoying “iron sharpens iron” process God tells us about. In other words, we want this relational thing to be easy! We then get sucked into the pattern of accusing, trying to convince, or, for the quieter, less assertive types, retreating, but then feeling powerless, annoyed, or resentful. All of this, many times, is in the name of “I’m just being honest” for the more verbal types or “I’m keeping the peace” for the less verbal types. We really think, in both camps, we are doing the right thing. I would propose that neither is righteous because one mode is too forceful and one is not assertive enough, both of which ignore the issue of dominion. True dominion requires knowing what God has placed in your realm of influence and doesn’t overstep that, nor does it neglect it.
When we are not quite synchronizing with the person in front of us, the first UPGRADE is in asking ourselves what we are truly, before God, responsible for in that situation. It is always good to know clearly what is in your circle of influence. You are responsible for your own emotions, thoughts, dreams, goals, spirit, sexuality, attitudes, beliefs, needs, choices, motivations, opinions, behaviors, interests, and abilities. Before God, the trick is figuring out how to blend with others who are responsible for their own emotions, thoughts, dreams, goals, spirit, sexuality, attitudes, beliefs, needs, choices, motivations, opinions, behaviors, interests, and abilities.
Let’s just take emotions from the list of what we are responsible for in our own lives. When I am trying to put my own emotional moment onto someone else, I might say something like, “You make me so mad!” When I say something like this, I am saying they are responsible for my anger. The truth is God made me to feel anger at times and I am responsible to manage that anger (and thus my behaviors). When I am trying to be responsible for my own emotional state, I assess my own ability to stay in control no matter what the other person has done. I am the only one who can assess the intensity inside myself and decide whether it is better to step away from the situation until I am calmer, or if I have the ability to stay respectful as I communicate. (If I don’t stay respectful, I would be outside proper dominion to blame it on the other person even if what they did was truly wrong. I am responsible for me. “On a good day, I am in control of me.” Loving on Purpose, Danny Silk) Also, I am the only one, if I am being honest with myself, who can adequately determine if my current anger is being influenced by something that happened in my past or if it “matches” what just occurred. God taught me to do this when I was a newlywed and my husband interrupted me. It was not a “good day.” I was not operating in proper dominion and pretty much let him have it! He was taken aback and questioned my strong reaction. At first I justified my response to him, but as I was, I realized that I was trying to make him responsible for every person in my past who had not listened to me. I realized how unfair this was! My emotional intensity did not “match” an interruption. If my response to him had matched the infraction, it would have been more like, “I don’t appreciate you interrupting; may I finish what I was saying?” (Assertive “I’m important/you’re important” communication versus attacking disrespect that communicates “I’m important, you’re not”.) I have come to realize that I feel much more in control of me when my emotional state is my responsibility and no one else’s. It is a powerful feeling when you get to the mature place when someone else in your space is having a “moment” and you are able to stay in love, peace and control.
A lot of UPGRADES occur in our relationships when we stop justifying emotional outbursts, unkind things said, and vengeful things done on what other people have done to us. We are to become like Christ while we walk on this earth. He is our example of loving us even while we were actively sinning against Him (Rom. 5:8). People are going to sin against us especially when we get closer to them. How do we stay in control of ourselves when they do? That is true power and control! It is not power and control over others, it is power and control over ourselves. The awesome thing is when we start to get this right, we start blending better with others and we have influence in their lives per their choice. When they then choose to let us influence them, we see the UPGRADE of true, loving, unified family and community. It is never love when it is coerced or manipulated. Love is only pure when it is chosen. God knew this and that is why He gave us free will.