Friday, January 3, 2014

The Illusion of Control


I find it amusing to watch those control freaks who make decisions to manipulate people and things so that they can feel as if they have exercised some control, even though in the long run their actions have no influence or even a negative affect on what they want to control.  

For example, football coaches at the end of a quarter, who try to "ice" a kicker by calling a time out right before the snap when the opposing team attempts to kick a field goal. There is no evidence that it works (causing a kicker to become more nervous and choke), and many times can backfire like it did recently in one of the bowl games when the field goal was blocked and the ball was recovered and returned for touchdown.  However, the defensive coach called a timeout right before the snap so the score didn't count and the next try was good.  This little exercise in the illusion of control cost the team 10 points. The real reason a coach feels compelled to call the time out is that it is the only thing a coach can do to have an impact on the kicker.  It just gives them the illusion of some sort of control. 

I see the same thing in the government's attempt to control the climate by passing regulations and trying to manipulate the lifestyle of millions of people.  It gives the regulators the illusion of control, a feeling that they are doing something when in reality they have little to no impact on Mother Nature and a negative influence on those they seek to control.

The problem with those who feel the need to exert control or have the illusion of control is that their actions can have very negative consequences on those they manage who lose autonomy with every bit of force exerted over them.  Often, the more control exerted, the more you diminish the potential of those you seek to control. 

As Christians we can be thankful that Jesus gave us freedom to make the right choices that would enable us to live the abundant life.  He laid out the values and the picture of that life by his example yet gave us wide latitude to live that life.  In contrast to the Jewish laws that had become an incredible burden on the Jews as the Jewish leaders sought to manage the lives of their people, Jesus said there were only two parameters, "love God and love others". And then God sent the power, through the Holy Spirit to help us realize this life.  

There is a small prayer that was made popular by Alcoholics Anonymous; God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. This small prayer packs a ton of wisdom, if we would only follow it, not just in our personal life but also in how we lead others.  Wouldn't it be a refreshing change if all of our leaders, church, government, and business, took this prayer to heart and equipped, empowered and encouraged those they lead to reach their potential without the need to control with tons of rules and regulations?

  • What are the things that you feel compelled to control?
  • How do you diminish the ability of those you lead by exercising control?
  • How can you lead those you have been placed in authority over better with less control?  

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