Control vs. Trust

Often we’d prefer to have control over hell than to trust in heaven.

If things don’t turn out the way we had so meticulously planned them to go, we resort to blaming ourselves for not having done enough, or not having done things differently. We’d rather spend hours suffering and grieving over an outcome than muster up the courage it takes to allow ourselves to move forward. As if fantasizing about having a time machine to go back and change things makes our grief any less painful to bear.

The simple notion that we could accept things as they are and keep our focus on the horizon can feel almost as difficult as building a time machine itself.

But trusting that the universe has your back takes even more than courage: it takes patience.

Eckhart Tolle explores this idea of trusting in the divine unfolding of events through the story of a wise man who won an expensive car in a lottery.

Upon hearing the news, his family and friends were very happy for him and went over to celebrate. ‘Isn’t it great!’ they said. ‘You are so lucky!’

The man just smiled and said, ‘Maybe.’

For a few weeks he enjoyed driving the car. Then one day a drunk driver smashed right into his new car at an intersection. The man ended up in the hospital with multiple injuries. His family and friends came to see him and said, ‘That was really unfortunate.’

Again, the man just smiled and responded with, ‘Maybe.’

While he was still in the hospital recovering from his injuries, there was a landslide one night and his beloved house suddenly fell into the sea. His friends came running in the next day to inform him of the news, ‘Weren’t you lucky to have been here in the hospital!’

Again, the wise man said only, ‘Maybe.’

Grappling with the reality of events that did not go the way you had planned can be extremely difficult. Many times it causes us to tighten our metaphorical grip as we search for more and more ways to regain a sense of control. We’ll opt for blaming ourselves (or those around us) for situations gone awry just to feel like we have any say in the outcome.

But as Tolle’s anecdote demonstrates, it’s not really about who’s responsible for the way things turn out. Nor is it about trying to label the outcome of events as “good” and “bad” or “fortunate” and “unfortunate”. To do so would be futile, seeing as shit is going to happen whether we expect it or not.

20th-century American writer Max Ehrmann takes the stance that, whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

So, rather than preoccupying yourself with ‘who’s responsible’, I invite you to shift your focus over to how you are responding to the predictably unpredictable things life throws at you. Focusing on your response allows you to pause and decide how exactly you want to react to a situation.

Do I react with anger? Relief? Fear? Do I let my ego throw me through the wringer of ‘What ifs?’ and ‘If onlys?’

Or, do I instead focus on finding peace in the reality of my current situation? And keep my head held high for whatever comes next?

The truth of the matter is, shifting your energy from who’s responsible to how you respond, is going to be the key determinant in your overall well being. A catalyst for your overall peace of mind.

Doing so is much easier said than done. I know all too well how that burning hot iron of control can feel so good that it’s hard to let go…

Even when letting go is exactly what we’re being asked to do.

But you’ll have to just trust me on this one–

It’ll be worth it when you do.

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