I’ve admitted before that I’m a bit of a control freak. However, I try to remind myself not to attempt to extend that control to other people or my relationships with them. I can control my reactions to others. I can control what I say to them. I can control how I want to manage our relationship. But even if I like someone, or love someone, I can’t control or change their words, feelings, actions, habits, or addictions. I learned that lesson when I was just a child.
My grandfather was an alcoholic and no matter how much my grandmother loved him, no matter how much I loved him, no matter how much anyone loved him, he continued to drink until the day he died. He always said he drank because grandmother nagged him so much, and she said she nagged him because he drank so much. They finally divorced, but grandmother continued to take care of him by shopping for him, taking him to the doctor, and generally monitoring his life. She kept a bit of control over him, but not enough to ever save him from his addiction. And never in my whole life did I ever hear him say he wanted to stop drinking.
The classic mistake made by nearly every new bride, new parent, or even new friend is to think they can change, modify, alter, adjust, or fine-tune some problematic personality trait or habit in another person simply through the power of love. I believe in the power of love and prayer to motivate change, but the change itself is ALWAYS dependent on the will and willingness of the person with the problem. You can lead a horse to water…
I am reminded of that saying each time I hear a young woman say that she will eventually get her husband to stop…whatever. Maybe, maybe not. What is most likely to occur is that he will just stop doing it in her presence.
I am reminded of that saying each time I hear a young parent say they will “make” their child learn something for my class. No they won’t. Neither will I. We will both encourage and enable, but the actual learning is up to the child.
I am reminded of that saying each time I hear a teenager say they can avoid being influenced by friends who have bad habits like drug addictions, drinking and smoking. Maybe, maybe not. But I doubt they will influence their friends to change and they may even be harmed by the relationship. So I’m left to wonder why they want that person to be their friend.
Most often what I write about is a reminder to improve myself before I try to improve someone else. This piece is no exception. I found myself irritated, angry, and hurt by a few things I heard and read and experienced this week. So I needed this little reminder that I can’t always control what happens. I can’t change other people. I can’t take away their problems. I can only control my feelings and actions. I can only control what I do next. So I find myself doing what I always do…pondering and praying…and persisting on a positive path.