Recently I talked to a friend who feels hopeless about her marriage. During our conversation these words which expressed her frustration stood out to me:
“I just can’t control what he’s doing.”
I thought how often that has been a frustration in my relationships.
I confess I have often tried to control the other person when what they did bothered me. But what I’ve learned along the way is that I can’t control what the other person does, but I can control my reaction to it.
As I thought about this, some other words which begin with “con” came to my mind. I realized when I feel overwhelmed by my inability to control others, instead of having a godly response, I can fall into the trap of these three additional “con” words.
The first one is condescension. I begin to look down on the other person and view their behavior as so much worse than anything I would ever do. The conclusion I come to is: “I’m better than you.” Condescension is fueled by pride and goes against God’s instruction to “in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 ESV)
The second word that came to mind is contention. I looked up the word and read this: “heated disagreement.” Some of the synonyms listed were: dispute, argument, discord, conflict, friction, strife, dissension, disharmony.” When I think of the word contention this verse comes to mind: “It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman” Proverbs 21:9 NASB
The third word which came to my mind that can flow from frustration over not being able to control, was condemnation. The dictionary defines the word this way: “the expression of very strong disapproval; censure; the action of condemning someone to a punishment; sentencing.” Synonyms for condemnation are: criticism, denunciation, vilification, reproof.
As I contemplated these three words, condescension, contention, and condemnation, I saw that my friend was engaged in all three. I realized, too, that often I let these three “cons” be my reaction to not being able to control people in my life, especially my husband, my children, and my grandchild.
I thought more about this and wondered how I could react differently.
Three other words came to mind. These words started with “com.” They are communication, compassion, and comfort.
How different these words are from the first three, and what a difference they make in my relationships when I embrace them.
My contemplation on this subject continued, and I thought that sometimes the One I can’t control is God. And when I can’t get Him to do what I want Him to do, I can react with condescension and contention. I confess I sometimes act as if I know better than God and at times I contend with Him to try to get Him to do my bidding. So far I haven’t condemned God, but that’s what people do when they lose their faith in God and refuse to connect to Him.
I’m glad I had my conversation with this friend. I learned how often I can have a bad reaction when I feel frustrated that I can’t control the negative behaviors of others or God allowing negative circumstances into my life.
Instead of doing the three cons: condescension, contention, or condemnation, I can choose communication (with God communicating is prayer, which I neglect when I’m in the trap of being upset that God allowed trials, traumas, or tragedies), compassion, and comfort. Although I never considered before the act of being compassionate toward God or offering comfort to Him, when I’m pleasing Him by trusting Him, perhaps I am doing just that.
God lavishes these three on me on a regular basis as I draw close to Him—even when I’ve blown it.
That’s what I suggested to my friend–drawing close to God. I offered to pray with her. She refused.
This thought hit me just now. I do feel frustrated that I can’t control her loss of faith in God–her falling from grace. But I refuse to give in to condescension, contention, or condemnation.
Lord, help me to continue to communicate with her, have compassion for her, and comfort her as she battles hopelessness.
Love & The Outcome–When We Love