Lent Day 17: Can’t Love What You are Trying to Control

What I am learning through this journey with control is that I cannot properly and truly love someone that I am trying to control. The two initiatives cannot co-exist. If we genuinely long to love someone – and according to Jesus that love must begin with love of self – then we have to release control. I was first introduced to this idea through a book I mentioned earlier in this Lenten reflection, When Love Meets Fear. The author has some powerful things to say about control and love:

Love is shown in four major ways: attention, acceptance, affection, and allowing the other freedom to be and become who he/she is.
Freedom is the ability and the right to choose. Control takes over that right and denies that ability. So when we control someone we are not loving him/her. We fear letting the other be who he/she really is.
To control is to make someone over in our own image, and that self-mirrored image is what we love, not who he/she actually is.
Love only happens when we let go of control and the fear behind it.

These thoughts on control and love have brought me to a place of repentance. To repent, according the Thomas Keating, is to change the direction in which we are looking for happiness. I am slowly, and with frequent failure, trying to do this. For so long I have looked for happiness through trying to control the people I love the most into being who I think I need them to be. This is the opposite of the way Jesus loves. He loves us just the way we are, and not as he hopes or desires us to be. I have a long way to go in learning to love.

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