Photo: National Cancer Institute (www.unsplash.com)
My sister inspired me (again) to share my thoughts. A few Sundays ago, Pat delivered the sermon at her church. Her theme was “When Things Fall Apart”. It’s taken me a long time to internalize what I’ve heard others say over the years: The only thing I can control is my reaction to what is happening. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in DC or closer to home. So much feels out of control right now. Much as I’d like to have people see things the way I see them (e.g., climate change, politics, COVID, etc.), there’s not a whole lot I can do to make that so. I can’t control how others see the world or how they act. There are some things I CAN do to help change things. I can reach out to friends and be a loving witness to them. I can wear my mask and keep my distance. I can vote and encourage others to vote. But I haven’t found a magic wand yet. Probably just as well.
Every time I roll my eyes or say in my head that someone or some point of view is stupid, what I’m really doing is I’m trying to control. It doesn’t change the situation or the person, and it only saps my spirit, so when I catch myself, I stop doing it. I read a passage in a meditation book that hit me: “All my attempts at control have brought me to the same place over and over again—loss of control.”
I recently reread Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Having survived four concentration camps, Frankl witnessed how the Nazis stripped people of their dignity. (Talk about not being in control!) But something he said really struck me. I had to reread it several times. He said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” He said that this was the one thing that helped him survive.
Surrendering doesn’t mean giving up.
Control comes from two Latin words: contra (against) and rota (wheel). I can’t help but think of the torture method called The Wheel. You can look it up (link below). It’s cruel and unusual punishment. So control is “against the wheel”. Imagine trying to go against THAT wheel!