Learning what I can or cannot control

Published 6:46 pm Saturday, January 21, 2017

By Tonya S. Swindell

Asking God to help me accept things I cannot change, have courage to change things I can and develop wisdom to know the difference can be very helpful.

Things I cannot change include my past, the weather, what other people say and do and the reality of death. In contrast, DeVon Franklin, author and Hollywood executive, suggested we have control over two things: “how we prepare for what might happen and how we respond to what just happened.”

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Several quotes shed light on things we can or cannot control:

“Someday, we’ll forget the hurt, the reason we cried and who caused us pain. We will finally realize that the secret of being free is not revenge, but letting things unfold in their own way and own time. After all, what matters is not the first, but the last chapter of our life, which shows how well we ran the race. So smile, laugh, forgive, believe and love all over again.” —Author unknown

I have control over how I respond to adversity. Instead of pursuing revenge I can allow a situation to unfold. And instead of allowing hurt to consume me, I can choose a more positive action.

“When thinking about life, remember this: No amount of guilt can solve the past, and no amount of anxiety can change the future.” —Author unknown

Guilt can’t change what happened, and anxiety can’t alter what’s going to happen. According to Philippians 4:6, 7 praying, asking for help, maintaining an attitude of gratitude and receiving peace counteracts anxiety.

“Acceptance is the way to turn suffering that cannot be tolerated into pain that can be tolerated.” —Marsha Linehan

On the day I began writing this article, I came across a handout describing “The Tug of War Metaphor” from a book called, “Get out of your mind and into your life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy,” by Stephen C. Hayes and Spencer Smith.

The handout caused me to envision my own “tug of war” with a monster created by anger and anxiety. The more I struggled with the emotions, the stronger they became. Once I “dropped the rope” to accept how I felt, God was able to heal me.

Psalm 32:1-5 suggests being “real” with God about my feelings can have a positive result: “Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be — you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean. Count yourself lucky — God holds nothing against you and you’re holding nothing back from him. When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up. Then I let it all out; I said, ‘I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.’ Suddenly the pressure was gone — my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared.”

Sylvia Boorstein summed up what can or cannot be controlled: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

Tonya Swindell writes a blog for www.inspirenewlife.org and a teacher for Kingdom Building Equipping School (KBES.com). She can be reached at 1brightot@gmail.com.