The Origin of the Word Control means ‘to exert authority’
We have a common expression for someone who tries to manage their lives too tightly meaning they put too much effort into planning, organizing and executing as many details of everything as they can. These individuals often create tension in their lives because they approach things, situations and people in a way that is not relaxed. We call them ‘control freaks’.
Interestingly, the origin of the word ‘control’ is not necessarily negative. It means ‘to exert authority’ and this is a vital aspect to growing spiritually. Whether you are a man or a woman, you have to engage your masculine energy to become decisive and affect the matter of your life. If you want a full life with God in the center, you will need to be able to control many things. At the same time, you will need to NOT become a freak when it comes to control. In other words, it’s a constant balancing act around control and letting go.
It will be a lot more helpful to use the word discipline in place of control when approaching your life. Above all, we seek to discipline the mind, body and emotions. The mind because when it is allowed to run free of the higher consciousness that is your soul in relationship with God, it often fosters untruths. Emotions must be disciplined as well which can be especially hard for women for two reasons. First, in general, women have less obstacles to feeling their emotions than men do which means the feelings can be extremely intense. Second, it is considered very acceptable if not expected for women to express emotions and men to suppress them. This can foster an attitude of entitlement to let emotions flow unbridled which will lead to conflicts.
On the spiritual path, emotions are to be felt, examined and processed and sometimes expressed outwardly. In situations of intense emotion, it is highly advisable to meditate before expressing oneself when you can feel you are past the ability to control your reactions. In this case, control is a positive thing.
Lastly, the body must also be disciplined. We can’t eat whatever, sleep whenever and have sex in unlimited quantities if we are going to be happy. We can’t let loose and drink alcohol, take recreational drugs or even over-indulge in caffeine without paying a significant price. The intake of these things which gives sensual pleasure needs to be disciplined to a level of moderation if we want to live in the Spirit. Life focused on feeling good on a sensory level will not lead to happiness.
Living in an overly controlling way, beyond a healthy discipline, can be looked as an expression of anger, fear, selfishness and laziness. The opposite approach and that which we strive for is to live in the Spirit. This takes time and a fierce desire to realize because it’s not easy and success comes gradually.
It will be helpful to explore your childhood upbringing to help you see why you try to control too many aspects of your life. Some who had controlling parents remain loyal to the pattern shown to them. Even if they disliked the controlling environment of their childhood, they adopted it because they had no other example. This is laziness because the person is saying ‘I didn’t like it but I don’t know how to or really want to exert the effort to learn a new way.’
Some go the opposite way and refuse to discipline any aspect of their lives. This is an expression of anger, in effect a sustained ‘giving of the finger’ to their parents who tried to control them too much. They will live in a way that shows how little that worked on them.
In households where parents provided very little structure and discipline, children often felt things were out of control. There was no sense that there would be meals at mealtimes, no one monitored their homework or provided consequences when their behaviors were off.
In cases of alcoholism or drug addiction, when the parents were intoxicated, the environment lost all semblance of control. Children raised in this environment may grow up to be super controlling as a reaction to their out of control early life. Or they might rebel against the fact that they had to be the responsible ones too early in life. Their anger results in a draw to being irresponsible and ‘free spirited’.
Whatever the origins may be, the work is mostly the same; recognizing when exerting your authority is in accord with the Spirit and when it is out of accord. Let’s discuss the correct understanding and application of control by first outlining what it means to live in accord with the Spirit.
We are talking about the Holy Spirit, one of the triune expressions of God our Creator. As you progress on the Way, you have to consider the power of the Spirit. It is the perfect director of Love and peace. The Spirit of God is given to us as a comforting presence which Jesus called The Comforter, the Helper or the Advocate in John chapter 15: “When the Comforter comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.”
Living by the Spirit is a complete surrendering of control in the sense of how we often think of it. When we try to manage all aspects of our lives by our minds and hearts, we create a life that is mostly closed off to God. This is not to say that a controlling person is failing in life. Controlling people often succeed, at least in a worldly sense. Good organization, attention to detail and managing many aspects of life is alluring because to a certain degree, it works!
The illusion is that controlling one’s life completely will result in more and more success and ultimately happiness. It doesn’t. God has to be the controlling force in our lives in order for the happiness and peace we seek to take root. However, and this is the hard part, we need to discipline our lives to a high degree and learn how to receive from the Spirit.
Think of it like this… you have decided you want to follow Christ since you have been told He is the Way to heaven. That’s a big decision. Once firm in that desire, you need a road map of how to follow. In our school, meditation is one of the most vital tools because it opens the channels for you to receive from the Spirit within. The Spirit will also communicate in more outer methods so we need to be receptive but from within is where we can work consistently to get reliable Guidance.
Here is where control has some positive applications. You must exert your authority to find a meditation method and teacher and then discipline yourself to study and practice what is taught. The mind, body and emotions must be managed. It’s ok to think of yourself as controlling your appetites, controlling your thoughts and the expression of your negative emotions. But when you go to the extreme and get super tight, cutting off all appetites and shutting down the expression of feeling, you have become too controlling.
Learning where that line is takes time. Through trial and error you will develop the feel for how much discipline is best. It tends to increase as you progress. In the first couple of years, trying to discipline all aspects of your life will lead to rebellion. This is because we are willfully trying to attain a higher consciousness before it is earned. Listen to what your teacher advises. The Teacher is in touch with the Spirit and thus the guidance is in accord with your current development. When you follow the Spirit, the Grace will carry you. When you try to control things beyond a healthy level, you actually work in opposition to the Spirit which is a form of pride. This ties back to the fact that control is an expression of fear. When one lacks the faith in God whose Spirit is here to guide and comfort you, they try to manage all aspects on their own. This will create a lot of tension in those around you and won’t result in peace.
The Spirit will teach you what to control and when to let go. Here are a few general rules;
- Discipline your body so that sensual pleasures are taken in moderation
- Discipline your mind away from negativities, judgments, fear based beliefs and victim mentality
- Learn a form of meditation that increases your awareness and helps you develop your higher consciousness. Practice daily.
- Meditate on and process your emotions before expressing them where possible.
- Create intentions for your waking life. Exert your authority in creating your life. This is done by determining what you want (your feeling side) and developing a reasonable action plan (your thinking side).
- Discipline yourself to keep both the masculine and feminine in constant communication.
- Invite the Spirit into your life daily through prayer. Remain receptive to the Spirit guiding you through daily meditation and increased faith.
- Organize, plan and execute in ways that leave room for the input of others (when applicable) but mostly for the input of the Spirit.
- Prepare for the direction of the Spirit by doing everything you can to be ready. When the moment arrives, relax and learn to read how the energy is moving. Follow it in a flexible mindset.
- Enjoy the unpredictable direction that the Spirit reveals.
- Praise God that your life unfolds in ways you can’t control