Friday, June 01, 2012

Control and Attitude

How do I deal with the fact that I don't - really don't - control most of my life?

I pondered this thought late into the day last night, brought on by a conversation I did not intend to have from someone I did not expect.  The conversation was on my attitude - which at work could be marginally said to be somewhat less than positive - but the thought followed me home long after I left.  Why am I so often negative?  Why do I do the things that I do?

As I continued to roll the conversation around in my mind, what I came to find is that I really, really perceive myself to have very little control over the things in my life.  So much of what I do seems to mandated - by my responsibilities, by the decisions of people above me, by people around me doing their own things. 

For the purposes of analyzing my attitude, I sat down and made a list of what I actually could control at work.  The list was much smaller than I imagined, and seemingly lacked any impact.  I listed that I could control:

- My attitude
- My responses
- My work output
- My personal adherence to the rules and regulations
- My education about my work

That's it.  It's not a very spectacular list, and you'll be quick to note that there's not one thing there about any particular item, activity, or program.  That's because I don't really control those either, even as I don't (and have never) controlled the direction of anywhere I've worked, the decisions that are made, or the future of the company.

What does my response seem to be?  Go for those things I perceive I can control, which is generally my attitude (often not good) and eating.  Eating?  Because it's the one thing I can completely choose to do or not.

So how do I confront this?  It's pretty clear - if I'm willing to take a long hard look at myself - that it does need to be changed, if for no other reason than this will eventually do me in.

The problem I seem to confront is it's as if I'm throwing everything down a rat hole.  I literally have no expectation or belief that 100% really does anything - when your job function is described as performing "thankless tasks" and what you do scarcely translates into the only sorts of recognition available, you tend to lose any confidence that more effort makes a difference.

But in theory, that's where the Christian work ethic should be different.  God clearly speaks about how we should work (let that "Do all things without grumbling or complaining" of Philippians 2:14 sink in for awhile), and having reviewed them again last night there's nothing there that talks about any sense of doing things based on your sense of control.  I'm told to obedient to my employers with all respect, to be well pleasing in all things, not responding poorly, not stealing, showing all good fidelity, doing things well whether someone is watching or not, as if I was working for God (and again, the no grumbling or complaining thing).  You'll notice these speak to attitude, responses, output, how I work, and how I equip myself to work - surprisingly the same as the list above. 

And the result?  This for me is the terrifying part:  leave it up to God.

I have problems processing this.

This feels like the ultimate abandonment:  to simply give up any expectation of any result and continue to work on the things I can control, giving 100% every day with no anticipation that it will control anything or lead to anything greater, because that is what God commands me to do.  Any reward, any greater control or arena of service, will be totally up to Him.

(On a side note, it should probably bother me that this feels so much like dying when it's such a little thing compared to the actual problems that people face every day:  cancer, death, hunger, even the simple fact of not having a job and wanting one.)

But there is one fact buried in all of that:  if I do that, at least I am working on those things I can control.  If I want control, it's there for the taking - just not on the things that I feel matter. 

But how long into a career - or life - can someone go constantly chasing the control they can never have without eventually destroying the very things that they could control?  And how much longer would it take until the very fabric of their life and personality is also impacted?

And if it was, would we know?

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