How does control lead to anxiety? How can we let go of the illusion of control and entrust our lives to God? Pastor and author Sharon Hodde Miller joins Amy Julia Becker for a down-to-earth, intellectually astute conversation about the wisdom surrounding control, agency, and influence.
“Sharon leads Bright City Church in Durham, NC with her husband, Ike. She writes, travels around the country speaking at churches and conferences each year, and holds a PhD on women and calling.” Sharon is the author of three books, including her latest, The Cost of Control: Why We Crave It, the Anxiety It Gives Us, and the Real Power God Promises.
On the Podcast:
“We can believe we have control even when we don’t.”
“Anytime you try to control something that God has not given you to control, it always comes with a cost.”
“Our faith is atrophying because instead of facing the things that we fear by drawing on Jesus, we retreat into the illusion of control to give us that quick hit of security and stability.”
“Anxiety is a huge cost of control. Anytime you try to control something you cannot control, it is going to create anxiety in you….Anxiety is a huge cost, and then another big, big one is broken relationships. Whenever you try to control people, it will fracture, strain, break that relationship in some way.”
“The term that I found really helpful to describe that is agency, which is another psychological term which I define as the power to influence yourself and your circumstances. And the operative word there being influence, not control.”
“Waiting with anxiety that will constantly tempt you to turn to control.”
“But the opportunity of self-examination also presses you to stop and ask why do I feel anxious?…Where is this coming from? What is underneath that? And then maybe what is underneath that?”
“We try to exert control or feel in control by basically saying, ‘Nobody can tell me what to do…if the only thing I can control is me, then no one else can tell me what to do.’…We are all about our autonomy. And underneath that is really about control. It’s not that all autonomy is bad, but in its extreme forms, this is about control.”
“I’m trying to control something that I simply cannot control. And if I continue on in this direction, I’m going to do damage to myself and to the people around me, and it’s simply not worth it. And that has really been helpful. That has been much more helpful to me than thinking, ‘Let go and let God.’”
“My default question is, when I’m feeling anxious, is to ask, ‘Am I trying to control something that I cannot control?’”
*A transcript of this episode will be available within one business day here, as well as a video with closed captions on my YouTube Channel.
Note: This transcript is autogenerated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
Anxiety is a huge cost of control. Anytime you try to control something you cannot control, it is going to create anxiety in you. Anxiety is a huge cost. And then another big, big one is broken relationships that whenever you try to control people it will fracture, strain, break that relationship in some way.
Amy Julia (32s):
Hi Friends, I’m Amy Julia Becker and This is Love is Stronger than Fear A podcast about pursuing hope and healing in the midst of personal pain and social division. My friend Sharon Hodde Miller is on the show today and I am sure you will join me in appreciating that she is just someone who’s so down to earth and yet also really intellectually astute and wise. And today she’s here to talk about the topic of control. Sharon is the leader of Bright City Church in Durham, North Carolina, alongside her husband Ike. She has written in all sorts of publications and spoken at all sorts of conferences and written multiple books that are phenomenal, again, down to earth like practical Theology with a lot of research and wisdom behind them.
Amy Julia (1m 19s):
I’m so glad we get to talk here today. And I will add, before we go to the conversation, we are giving away a copy of her new book, The Cost of Control. And if you wanna To enter to win that book, then you just need to share this podcast episode on Instagram Facebook or Twitter. And tag me, I’m here with my friend Sharon Hottie Miller Sharon Hardy Miller Sharon, welcome to the Podcast. Hi. So it is really fun to have you here. Sharon and I know each other from way back in the day. I mean over a decade ago writing for the, what was then a new blog at Christianity today called Hermeneutics.
Amy Julia (1m 60s):
It’s now Christianity today Women, which is a far less exciting title. But anyway, we have been in kind of the same circles over many years. But it’s really fun because I’m here to get to talk to Sharon today about her new book, which is called The, Cost of Control, Why We Crave It, the Anxiety It Gives Us, and the Real Power God Provides. So that is a fantastic title. I’m excited to get to talk to you about it. And I thought maybe we could start just by defining control, like what do you mean when you use that word and why is it a problem in general, but especially for modern humans?
Sharon (2m 35s):
So I define control in two ways actually. There’s the way that I think we think of control, which is imposing your will on people and circumstances. And so when we think about someone who’s controlling You know, that’s what we think about. But there’s a second definition that I include, which is the feeling of being in control.
Amy Julia (3m 1s):
Sharon (3m 2s):
And those are two very different things. And very often what we’re after is just that feeling. And what was really fascinating to me is I have a whole chapter looking at this concept, the illusion of control. And I learned how I’ve used that term before. I don’t know about you, I’ve used that term before, but I did not know. This is an actual psychological phenomena where we imagine we have control even though we don’t. And this plays out in all sorts of ways, like superstitions, You know players who wear the same socks through the playoffs, that, that sort of a thing.
Sharon (3m 44s):
But basically we can believe we have control even when we don’t. And this actually benefits us psychologically that it, that when you think you have control, it, it does actually make you feel better. Your, your anxiety is lower, your depression is lower for a time. And and that’s why we love that feeling so much regardless of whether or not it is rooted in anything real at all.
Amy Julia (4m 10s):
And so is there, I feel like one of the things you did well in the book was to write about both these ancient needs for control or the illusion of control as humans, but also that there are like new dynamics, new things at play in our current era. So could you speak to that a little bit? Like what’s kind of ancient about this need but also what’s new about this problem?
Sharon (4m 33s):
Yeah, the reason we struggle with control is sort of threefold. So the first reason is ancient, as you said, and it’s, it’s also theological. Going back to Genesis three in the Garden of Eden, prior to sin entering the world, Adam and Eve have everything essential to thrive. They have freedom, they have influence, they have power, they have unity, they have peace, they have security, stability, everything that they need. But one thing they do not have is control. They’re, they’re not actually in control of the garden. And so in Genesis three, when they reach for that fruit from the knowledge of good and evil, in that moment, they’re basically asserting that this is not enough.
Sharon (5m 23s):
That I, I also want to be in charge. I want to have godlike stature in this world. And so anytime we reach for control, to empower us, to rescue us, to soothe our anxieties in some way, we are just reenacting that moment in some way, shape or form. And so those are the, the theological roots of control and we are sort of doomed to reenact it since this is like ground zero of sin entering the world, it almost sort of rewrote human dna, like spiritual human dna. So as the descendants of Adam and Eve were sort of doomed to reenact at this moment as well as its consequences.
Sharon (6m 5s):
And that’s where I get the title from The Cost of Control. Anytime you try to control something that God has not given you to control, it always comes with a cost cuz you’re reenacting that that moment. So those are the theological foundations. But another reason why we struggle with control is cultural. And that has much more to do with our present historical moment where we live in a culture that is constantly promising us control. You know whether it’s on your smartphone, which is saying You know you can have certainty, you can have predictability, you can have control, you can know what the weather is gonna be in 10 days.
Sharon (6m 47s):
You can know when your Amazon package is gonna arrive within the hour. You know we have all this knowledge, which which gives us this feeling of control. We’re also promise control over our bodies. You know if you take this diet supplement, You know if, if you eat this way then you can control your weight or you can keep yourself from, from getting cancer or you can defy aging. And so this is constantly marketed to us just day in and day out. But also because of of technology, we are really lulled into this illusion of control.
Sharon (7m 29s):
And so that, that is really ubiquitous in, in this particular cultural moment. So that’s another reason why we struggle with control is we are told all the time that we can, that we, we actually can have control. And then the third reason is, is a little bit different, which is that we struggle with control because we live in a broken world. The world is not as it should be. We live in this post Genesis three world, but we were created for Genesis one and two, we were created for security and stability. And so a lot of times what we’re feeling when we want to control is not just sin, not just human folly.
Sharon (8m 10s):
Sometimes that is you recognizing the world is profoundly broken and in need of Healing, where we go off the rails is when we believe that we are the ones able to heal it instead of Christ. So it’s, it’s actually three different reasons why we struggle with control.
Amy Julia (8m 29s):
Yeah, and I appreciate that because it does seem like if that illusion of control actually does something, at least in the short term for us, that is to get, bring us back to a place of at least seeming stability and security. And like I understand the world, it’s not a place of chaos, it’s not a place of absurdity, right? Like there’s something good about that. And yet again it still is like, well so why is that a problem? And I think, I think to that point I’d love to ask a little bit, what do you see as The Cost of Control? Like what are we paying in exchange for this illusion? Occasionally the reality though I do think it’s more, more often the illusion of control that we get.
Sharon (9m 11s):
Well one cost of control that is, is the cost of retreating into that illusion of control. Cuz sometimes The Cost of Control is immediate and sometimes it is delayed and one delayed cost that that happens whenever we retreat into the illusion of control is that we are not growing spiritually in a way that prepares us to live in the actual world. And so our faith is atrophying because instead of facing the things that we fear by drawing on Jesus, we retreat into the illusion of control to give us that quick hit of, of security and stability.
Sharon (9m 52s):
And I think that was sort of the, what was exposed in the pandemic is that we, we had all because of our technology, because of our medical advancements, we believed that our mastery over the world had grown much beyond what it was in actuality. And so we thought we were sort of beyond things like pandemics basically. And there was almost this market correction in the pandemic where we realized actually that was an illusion of control, but because we had inhabited it so thoroughly, we weren’t spiritually prepared for the actual world that we are living in.
Sharon (10m 41s):
And so that’s a more delayed consequence is just the fallout on our faith when we turn to control to soothe us instead of You know turning to God. But another one that I dig into, and this is in the subtitle, is that anxiety is a huge cost of control. Anytime you try to control something you cannot control, it is going to create anxiety in you. And we experience this in very, very low levels all the time. You know, I think of my seven year old when he, he is still sort of developing the fine motor skills for Legos. He’s really good with them, but he’s, he’s still developing them.
Sharon (11m 22s):
And when he can’t You know, get them apart and he’s just forcing it. And I can see the blood vessels You know popping out of his forehead and he’s so upset and he’ll at some point he’ll just yell, You know. And, and then he’ll break down into tears and he’s just trying to get this thing and it won’t submit to him. And that is a very You know, low stakes example of how when you try to control something that is not submitting to you, it upsets you. It it, it ratchets up that anxiety but it plays out in much higher stakes. When we’re talking about relationships, You know, especially you’re thinking about your adult children. Like we were just talking about Penny You know before this, this interview and You know what it means to launch her You know into the world.
Sharon (12m 10s):
That is really scary. Right? And when, when we are talking about our adult children, You know and even more dire situations where maybe you have an adult child who is struggling with addiction or or could be a spouse, You know a brother or sister or whatever it is in the anxiety you feel about wishing you could change them, wishing you could snatch them out of the jaws of whatever destruction they’re headed towards. Some of the anxiety you’re feeling is caused by that situation. But some of the anxiety we’re very often feeling is because we are also trying to inject ourselves into it and trying to force something that we don’t have control over.
Sharon (12m 54s):
Yeah. And the more we do that, the more it actually exacerbates our anxiety. And so what a lot of people get stuck in is this cycle where they feel anxiety and so you run to control to so that anxiety and then that only increases it more. And I feel like we saw this happening in those early months of the pandemic where people were just running around trying to find, give me a grip on something that can make me feel peace. And none of it was working because none of it was God. And so anxiety is a huge cost. And then another big, big one is broken relationships that whenever you try to control people it will fracture, strain, break that relationship in some way.
Sharon (13m 47s):
And this is really, really tricky because you might not see it for a long time. This is another delayed cost. Hmm. This is something that I learned, I’ve been learning in my own marriage because Ike and I You know we lead Bright city together and so we’re having to make decisions for our church together and we don’t always agree. And in those moments, I know I’m, I’m not domineering, I’m not aggressive, I’m not yelling, I’m not threatening, but I know what to say to kind of get the answer that I think we should make. And this whole journey has reframed those moments now where I realize, okay, I can get my way in this moment, I can control this decision but if I do, it will cost my marriage in some way.
Sharon (14m 42s):
I might not see it today, I might not see it tomorrow, I might not see it for five years from now, but it will. And so is it worth it to get my way in the situation for the damage that it will do to my marriage? And that has been a very different question That is is really helpful. Honestly it’s, it’s been really helpful in those situations.
Amy Julia (15m 4s):
One of the things that I’ve been thinking about lately, I’m in this season of, and I’ve been calling it a season of waiting where I’ve just really had this sense of, you mentioned Penny You know she’s a junior now. And so people are often asking me like what is she gonna do after she graduates? And the answer is, I don’t know and I’m waiting to find out. But both in terms of actually starting a process of learning what might we might do, I’ve felt like it’s, we need a little more time before we do that. I’m waiting in terms of just, I had a book come out in the spring, I’m not working on a new one yet. Like there’s just this in between time. Our son just started at a new school for high school so kind of waiting to know like he seems fine but like there just is this period of waiting.
Amy Julia (15m 47s):
And one of the things I’ve realized and what came up For me in reading your book was I have been going in and out of these places but largely waiting, anxiously waiting with this sense of wanting God to tell me what’s going to happen and reassure me with specificity about the future. Yeah. Rather than what I think patience would be, which is like waiting with trust, waiting with a totally like I really don’t know, I really don’t know how it’s gonna go. I really don’t know what’s gonna be next and I can have a spirit of like peaceful contentment in that waiting and even eager anticipation. So it’s not just like You know, there can be a sense of energy to that but instead I have felt a lot of anxiety.
Amy Julia (16m 32s):
And I think that, I mean another way to say that is that I would like to control the future rather than receive the future. And of course, and we’ll talk about this in a minute, we have a role to play right in our lives. It’s not that we are passive recipients of You know God as a puppet master and yet there is For me this difference between anxiety and trust and control has yes in my life certainly it might be delayed and I really, it it is really hard to let go but the, I really do want to learn how to move from that place of anxiety to trust or from control to trust and to trust Ingo whose love is a power that is much not just stronger but also better than any power I might have to control things.
Sharon (17m 23s):
Amy Julia (17m 23s):
Well yeah, go ahead.
Sharon (17m 25s):
I was gonna say, if you don’t mind You know pivoting a little bit into how we don’t have control, but we do have agency. I feel like that’s a really great segue. Are you okay with that?
Amy Julia (17m 37s):
Totally. Great. Yes. I would love to talk about, I’d love to talk about agency and influence cuz those are two things you bring up that I think are have to do with not being passive recipients of
Sharon (17m 49s):
This all. Yeah. Yeah. So the kind of the arc of the book is looking at how God doesn’t give us control, but he does give us agency and we see this dichotomy between Genesis two and Genesis three. So in Genesis two, Adam and Eve are not in control, but they’re also not puppets or prisoners or robots. Right. They have tremendous power and authority and influence and purpose. And the, the term that I found really helpful to describe that is agency, which is another psychological term which I define as the power to influence yourself and your circumstances.
Sharon (18m 29s):
And the operative word there being influence, not control. And so when, when we look at Genesis one, two and even parts of three, we see all these different forms of agency that were available to Adam and Eve before they decided they wanted more than influence. They wanted control and one form of agency available to them. And this is why what you just said I feel like is a good segue here. One form of agency available to them that, that we don’t think of as much as an action verb is self examination. Hmm. So in Genesis three, after Adam and Eve eat the fruit and they hide, God goes to them and says, where are you?
Sharon (19m 19s):
And this is a rhetorical question because God knows where they are, he’s not stumped by the tree. Right? Right. Or the bush, whatever it is that Adam chose to hide behind the Omni at God isn’t confused by this. And so this is actually God asking Adam to self-reflect like can you, in the middle of this coming apart, can you just pause, take a beat and consider how did I get here? Like when did I go off the rails? Exactly, yeah. Because I had everything that I needed. I had complete unity with with Eve and with God and You know freedom, everything that I needed, how did I get here?
Sharon (20m 2s):
And in that moment, Adam is unable to do that internal work. Instead he just does what control does, which is to point the finger and blame. He, he points to Eve. And so he has this opportunity to get out of that You know control anxiety cycle by just self examining. And unfortunately he chooses not to. But this is a really powerful way for us to, to stop that cycle, to get out of it. And that goes back to just what you were saying earlier about waiting with anxiety that will constantly tempt you to turn to control.
Sharon (20m 45s):
Like what are the things that I can control to soothe this anxiety in my life? And yes, there are some areas of your life where you have profound agency, you have great influence over, over Penny’s life and and you’re called to be a good steward of that. Yeah. But the opportunity of self-examination also presses you to stop and ask why do I feel anxious? Like where is this coming from? What is underneath that? And then maybe what is underneath that? And then maybe what is underneath that You know digging down until you can really get to the bottom of where is this anxiety coming from? Because as long as you are giving the answer, well this anxiety is coming from my uncertainty about where You know what’s gonna happen with Penny.
Sharon (21m 32s):
That is not the real answer. Right. That’s not really the answer. And so we need to use our agency to influence ourselves that way and really know what’s going on inside of us.
Amy Julia (21m 43s):
Well and I’m curious because you, well, and I guess no, that’s a good example of both the agency to influence ourselves, but we also are using that to influence others but not to control others. And that I appreciated that in your book just because I think sometimes when we are talking, I think there’s a lot in psychology about not controlling others and recognizing that that’s actually not something we have the option of doing. And yet it does seem important to me in terms of our interconnectedness and the ways that we are actually called to be ones who love and care for each other, recognizing that there’s a role for agency and influence seems really important.
Amy Julia (22m 24s):
And a lot of this to me, a I kept coming back to the idea of love as a power when I was reading your book and I have, when I’ve thought about control in general, and I’ve heard the phrase You know God is in control and I know there’s some truth to that in the sense of God being sovereign like the creator, the one who You know holds all things together. Right. And yet I’ve also thought about the biblical verse idea that God is love because love and control can seem really antithetical to each other. Like there’s a sense in which God does not use power to your point, to be a puppet master but rather to love and those things, again, maybe the language is not helpful, but I’ve, I’ve, I’ve been hesitant, I guess I’ve become increasingly hesitant to say God is in control because of the way in which control can seem to be a coercion or making you do what I want rather than the love that God displays in terms of essentially wooing us and caring for us in spite of us and You know all of those things and and saying, I wanna partner with you actually in bringing about goodness and Beauty and truth in this world.
Amy Julia (23m 43s):
So I just would love to hear your thoughts on the saying God is in control. What’s true about that? What might be problematic about that? What what do you think?
Sharon (23m 53s):
One thing that I wish I had included in the book, I don’t think it’s in the book, I think this was language I came to, I did a four part sermon series on the book afterwards and this is language I came to as I was writing one of my sermons on this is that we say that God is in control, but what we never say is that God is controlling. And I find that distinction to be really helpful. Yeah. Especially in light of everything that you just said about love because it is true. God is ultimately sovereign and we can assert that to be true.
Sharon (24m 33s):
But what we also hold together is humans free will. Right. And you see that that perfectly imbalance in Genesis one and two. But you even afterwards you see God continues to honor our free will and and how those things come together is, is very mysterious. But you see it in instances like Pharaoh where God hardens Pharaoh’s heart but he doesn’t, he’s not operating Pharaoh to enslave the Israelites or to You know, not respond to Moses. He, it’s not like a puppet master, it’s still Pharaoh acting.
Sharon (25m 17s):
And so those things are, are held together somehow and we are God’s image bearers, which means there’s an extent to which we need to be reflecting that balance as well. And, and in some ways all the more humbly and carefully because we are not perfectly, we don’t always know what’s best. Like we know what we think is best. Right. But we don’t actually know what is best. Yeah. And so I think that that is, I’ve never thought about how love plays into it, but I think that’s a really great way of, of thinking about the non-coercive power of love.
Sharon (25m 58s):
That, that we are called to, to love and not to to control. But the thing that is tricky about it is that we can sometimes control in the name of love. Like we can think I’m doing this for your good. Right. And as parents, that is especially nuanced because we are called to protect our kids and to guide them and to discipline them at times. And, and that’s something that I really talk to God about a lot. Like as, as my kids get older, cuz it, it’s sort of a dance a little bit, but really wanting to make sure I am not stepping on You know the agency of my kids that, that I’m really nurturing that freedom in a, in a sense.
Sharon (26m 47s):
So that, and and the way that I’ve kind of thought about it with parenting is the difference between influence and outcome. You know, I think of Paul when he’s talking about ministry and saying, I planted the seeds and Apollos watered, but it was God who gave the growth. And I can plant the seed into my kid’s heart. I can water it, I can cultivate faith, I can cultivate wisdom, You know all those things. But ultimately it is God that gives the growth. I am not responsible for that outcome. I cannot control the outcome. And if I think that I can, then I start to stray into the realm of control. And so even, even with parenting, I think that is one area where we can deceive ourselves and say, well I’m doing this out of love, but the consequences, the cost, if, if what we’re really doing is controlling, there will be consequences to it down the road.
Sharon (27m 39s):
And so that, that’s a really takes a lot of prayer to serve it, I’ll say.
Amy Julia (27m 46s):
Yeah. Yeah. And For me that sense of like the non-coercive that has been a helpful way For me to recognize when I am controlling as opposed to maybe influencing. Right. And then similarly recognizing how much God really does. I mean even whether it’s like the story of the prodigal son where the father lets the son go You know and receives him back with love, lets the older son stay out in the vineyard upset. Like there’s just a sense of the love being so present but also being so invitational rather than controlling.
Amy Julia (28m 26s):
And I, I appreciate your distinction too between control and controlling, which I think is another helpful way to say it. So thank you for your thoughts on that. I’m curious also though, cuz you, at towards the end of the book you write about the difference between self-control and being in control. And maybe that goes back to the idea of self-examination, but could you talk a little bit about like what is self-control? How is that different from You know thinking that we can be in control?
Sharon (28m 52s):
Yeah. So the only thing we really have control over is ourselves. But even that there’s like a big asterisk Because I, I have a whole chapter there. There’s a section of the book on different ways that we try to exert control. And one of those is autonomy. So we, we try to exert control or feel in control by basically saying, nobody can tell me what to do. Like if the only thing I can control is me, then no one else can tell me what to do. And we’re in a, a culture that is super into that like hyper individualistic, anti-authority.
Sharon (29m 32s):
We are all about our autonomy. And underneath that is really about control. It’s not that all autonomy is bad, but in its extreme forms, this is about control. Hmm. Self-control is, is not that self-control is really more about discernment. You know whether or not am I doing, Tim Keller has a really great definition of it. He, he says that it’s the difference between choosing the urgent thing versus the important thing. And so our flesh is gonna wanna choose the urgent thing, but the Holy Spirit helps us to choose the important thing. And so that, that’s what we mean when we’re talking about self-control is not simply I’m the boss of me, but basically having the power to choose holiness is, is really what, what that is about instead of to choose life instead of death is really what, what self control is about.
Amy Julia (30m 31s):
Yeah. And it seems like that sense of, there’s some dynamic that’s hard for us, even though You know plenty has been written about it to understand how we remain very particular individuals created by God with particular purposes, particular gifts, all of those things. And yet also can be in Christ or You know, empowered by the Holy Spirit. And so there’s this dynamic of being, I guess releasing control or the illusion of it to the work and power of the spirit, and yet also going back to the agency and influence recognizing our particular role to play, whether that’s in our own lives or in the world.
Amy Julia (31m 13s):
And I did wanna ask one other kind of question. I I have two more questions for you, but this one is more about the God piece of things you mentioned. And I thought this was really interesting. You mentioned lots of different ways we try to control money, we’ve talked about time, we’ve talked about other people, but you also write about Theology as a false way of trying to control. And that resonated with me. You used the example of the prosperity gospel and I might ask you just to kind of spell that out for people who don’t know what that is and or how it might be an attempt to control. But I’m also curious whether there are other ways we might use, like if you’re not a prosperity gospel person, might you still be someone who’s using Theology to try to control God?
Sharon (31m 59s):
The the main one really that that comes to mind is prosperity Theology. I think that the other really present temptation is to use Theology to try and control other people. And we, we see this in its worst form in cults. We see it in fundamentalism, but I think we also see it in lesser forms with gatekeeper approaches to faith. You know. And, and, and I don’t even mean the powers that be, I I think on social media, everyone kind of has their own understanding of what Jesus really meant, right.
Sharon (32m 47s):
And how all these people are not doing it. And so I’m gonna wield my Bible verse and explain to you why you are wrong. And, and, and that’s kind of a combination of, of control. Another tool of control I talk about is knowledge and information. And this was the original like ground zero form of control was actually knowledge. We think of power as being the main form of control. But what we see in Genesis three is, is it’s really knowledge that we use knowledge to. We, we think that it has more power and more influence than it does, than it actually does. And so if I can just use the right argument with you and point you to the right Bible versus, or the right Theology or whatever, then I can change your mind.
Sharon (33m 33s):
And that doesn’t work. We, we see in Jesus’s life alone that You know he’s the perfect debater, perfect You know vision caster, perfect sermon giver, You know whatever it is. Jesus did it best and people still didn’t hear him, still didn’t listen, still didn’t change their mind. And so there’s, there’s a combination there of us wielding, Theology and You know that knowledge as well thinking I’m gonna download this into your brain or say it just the right way and this is going to change the way that you think and, and that that assumption seems to predicate so many comments sections on social media.
Amy Julia (34m 16s):
Totally. No, that’s a great point that that can come from higher up. But it also is a very grassroots phenomenon of thinking Yes. That we can control one another through these almost litmus tests for who’s in and who’s out and, and what’s right and wrong. Which doesn’t mean that there’s no standard of authority or anything, but just that there needs to be, for us, a tremendous amount of humility in thinking that we have the only correct view on pretty much anything. Well, so for just as we come to a close, I’m curious about people who are like, okay, I recognize myself in this and I recognize the cost I’m paying and I don’t wanna do that anymore. So you’ve got someone who’s like, I really don’t want to live in this cycle of illusion of control, anxiety and delayed consequences.
Amy Julia (35m 5s):
Are there any practices that you would recommend for people who are trying to let go of that cycle of control? Maybe something that’s worked in your own life or a couple of things that you’ve just You know, recognize could help people on that path towards letting go of control and receiving the love and goodness of God
Sharon (35m 25s):
For me self-examination has been really huge because as I’ve already shared in those moments where I’m able to pause and realize I am trying to control my husband right now, I’m trying to control my kids right now. I’m trying to control people in my church as soon as I’m able to name that. And, and that’s another form of agency that we see in Genesis one is, is naming and and ordering. And so as soon as I’m able to name this is what is actually going on right now, not this other thing that I’m trying to blame that is outside of myself, this is actually what’s going on, which is fueling this, that has helped me to see really clearly and then to consider, okay, I can get my way in this moment, but it is going to cost my marriage, it is going to cost my relationship with my kids.
Sharon (36m 18s):
It is going to cost my mental health You know if I’m trying to control people in our church. And this was a huge struggle For me two years ago when every decision that we made for our church was disappointing people because everything was so polarized. Everything was run through this partisan filter. And so we were constantly disappointing people. And I went to that well of knowledge thinking this, this will convince people if I can point them to the scripture, if I can point them to the Theology, if I can point them to the experts in our church that we’re consulting, if I can point them to the other pastors we’re consulting and if I can give this to them in the right way, get it into their brain, somehow this is going to change their minds.
Sharon (37m 6s):
And it didn’t work. But what it did instead was I was the one laying awake at night rehashing these conversations and thinking, what if I just said it this way? What if I just said it that way? Yeah. And I think that’s a really great indicator for, for anyone if you’re laying awake at night thinking about this one person or this one situation that what if I did it this way, what if I did it this way? Or if this is the gravitational pull of your thoughts, that’s a good sign. You have run up against the limits of your influence in this situation and you are thrashing against it right now. And so just being able to see that really clearly has helped me to receive the reality.
Sharon (37m 51s):
I I’m trying to control something that I simply cannot control. And if I can continue on in this direction, I’m going to do damage to myself and to the people around me and it’s simply not worth it. And that has really been helpful. That has been much more helpful to me than thinking, let go and let God.
Amy Julia (38m 13s):
Right, right. Oh my gosh, thank you for that. And, and just so in terms of someone who’s like, okay, I hear you saying that now in the middle of a conversation with Ike or with someone who you’re, you might recognize because of a practice of self examination. Wait a second, I’m actually trying to control you. Like do you have a formal practice of You know when you’re lying in bed at night or when you wake up in the morning? Or like how did, how did you get to the point of actually recognizing that that’s what’s going on here? Is there You know another time when you’re kind of pulling back and reflecting
Sharon (38m 50s):
For me, it’s when I feel anxious. Okay.
Amy Julia (38m 54s):
So that is
Sharon (38m 55s):
Like the key. Yeah. It’s like when I feel anxious, when I feel when I wake up with pain in my job because I was clenching my teeth all night or back pain, You know because I’m holding it in my shoulders. You know that headaches, whatever it is that is an indication. And I recently heard Velos, he said that they talk about the body as being a major prophet, not a minor prophet. And that your body tells you you’re anxious before you even know that you are. And so that’s, that has been my default question is when I’m feeling anxious is to ask am I trying to control something that I cannot control?
Sharon (39m 39s):
Yeah. And that has been really helpful.
Amy Julia (39m 41s):
Yeah, that’s great. And that’s, I think that’s a good, and to recognize something I’ve really needed to recognize is that there are times when I’m clear that I am feeling anxious because I can feel my head spinning, my heart pounding, whatever it is. But also that there are times when I don’t think that I’m anxious at all, but exactly what you just said, the back, the head, the whatever, like actually indicates that to me. So that I think is a really helpful to actually pay attention to the cues that our bodies and our emotions give us to be like, whoa, where’s that coming from? And then bring that into a place of prayer, which I will also say, I was struck by you saying in the book that prayer is an aspect of our agency and influence in the sense that we actually are invited into conversation with God.
Amy Julia (40m 28s):
Not in the sense of we become the puppet masters who get to You know, tell God what to do with these troublesome people in our lives. But that we do actually through prayer get to exert some agency in, in changing things, which often is going to mean changing our perspective. Right. And our receptivity to the, the ability to trust that God is, is actually present and good in what’s going on.
Sharon (40m 54s):
Amy Julia (40m 56s):
Well Sharon, thank you so much for your time. Thank you for writing this book. It’s been really wonderful to see you. Thank you for being with us.
Sharon (41m 3s):
It’s been great.
Amy Julia (41m 6s):
Thanks as always for listening to this episode of Love is Stronger Than Fear. Once again, we are giving away a copy of The Cost of Control. And if you wanna win that, just share this podcast episode on Instagram Facebook or Twitter and be sure to tag me. I said, if you wanna win that what I actually mean, if you want To enter to win that, then share the Podcast and tag me. I also wanna say thank you to Jake Hanson for editing this podcast to Amber Beery, my social media coordinator. And finally, as you go into your day to day, I hope you’ll carry with you the peace that comes from believing that love is stronger than fear.
Learn more with Amy Julia:
- To Be Made Well: An Invitation to Wholeness, Healing, and Hope
- What If We Choose a Different Way?
- Breaking the Anxiety Boomerang
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