It feels good to be in control, right? If we’re being honest, most of us would love to have control over our finances, the future, and how others think about us. But control can also be dangerous. In one moment, everything’s going according to plan, then a person, event, or misunderstanding disrupts our peace.
Maybe it’s a loved one who won’t listen to your advice, or a coworker who doesn’t meet your productivity standards. It might be a pile of laundry that keeps appearing no matter how many times you ask the people in your home to put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket.
Let’s be clear—setting boundaries and holding others to appropriate standards is good. But if you get irrationally angry at a sock on the floor, or feel exhausted trying to “fix” everyone else’s mistakes, then it’s probably time to let go of control. Or, at least, some of your control.
And yes, we know that you have a lot on your plate. You can’t just drop everything and ignore your to-do list. That’s not the goal. Instead, we hope this article helps you become a little less anxious about the things you can’t control, a little more willing to let go of control, and a little more confident in God, who controls everything.
Why Do We Seek Control?
Do you constantly run through a list of what-ifs all day? What if my friend keeps making bad choices? What if someone comes over and they judge the state of my house? What if people think less of me because I don’t look a certain way? And what if the economy crashes and we can’t pay the bills next month?
It’s wise to be mindful and strategic about the future. But constantly worrying about countless what-ifs can lead us to an unhealthy level of control.
Control creates comfort.
In some ways, control is like a warm, woolly blanket. It makes us feel safe, protected, and comfortable.
We often try to control the things we’re most afraid of losing. For example, if we’re afraid of losing love, respect, or admiration, we’re motivated to control how others view us. If we fear losing a loved one, we risk keeping them too close and becoming a smothering presence in their life. And if we’re afraid of not having enough resources in the future, we might struggle to be generous.
But control doesn’t last, because life is full of the unexpected. No amount of money, status, or healthy relationships can stop a bad diagnosis, a natural disaster, or a car crash. And no amount of advice, arguments, or ultimatums can force someone to change their mind.
In moments when life feels out of control, we often resort to lashing out, feeling self-doubt, or working ourselves ragged in an attempt to regain control. But there’s a better, healthier way to face life’s uncertainties—trust.
Building trust in God can help us let go of control.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Psalm 46:1-3 NIV
Life is full of unpredictable, unexpected, and unwanted surprises. But even in the chaos, we know God is in control. So what if we don’t have a control problem? What if we can solve our control issues as we grow in trust instead? Here’s a quote that brings these ideas together:
What you attempt to control the most
often reveals where you trust God the least.
—Pastor Craig Groeschel
Realizing God is in control brings incredible freedom. Letting go of the attempt to control everything and instead focusing on an eternal perspective is a game changer. Why? Because it helps us allow God to handle the things that are His to begin with.
3 Questions to Help You Let Go of Control
Let’s take an inventory of the things we’re trying to control. Make a list, then ask these questions. We hope they provide helpful insights that lead to a healthier relationship with control.
1. Is it worth my concern?
We only have so much mental energy each day, and we get to choose how to invest it. Some things are worth our concern. Our well-being and spiritual growth, the safety of the people in our care, and the needs of our neighbors should be on our minds and motivate us to action.
Other things, while also important, don’t deserve a significant amount of our “mental energy budget.” So the next time you find yourself stressing over something someone else did, or obsessing over something you didn’t do, ask yourself—is this worth my concern? Is this worth spending a significant amount of my limited mental energy?
Let’s invest our time and energy in the things that matter most—and avoid wasting them on things that don’t really matter.
2. Is it worth my control?
Often, people with control issues find themselves feeling overworked and overwhelmed. Why? Because they don’t trust others to make the right choices and get things done the right way.
Have you ever felt micromanaged by someone? Then you know what we’re talking about. A micromanager is someone who doesn’t trust their employees. They’re hyper-vigilant and quick to point out failures. They also don’t have much grace for mistakes. Instead, they tend to take control at the first sign of trouble. Micromanagers also tend to feel stressed, overworked, and isolated. Their lack of trust creates a culture of fear and frustration.
If we’re not careful, we can let a lack of trust turn us into micromanagers in some areas of our lives. So how do we avoid becoming a micromanager? We ask ourselves, is this task worth my control? Or is this someone else’s responsibility?
Remember, people have different backgrounds, preferences, and perspectives. They won’t always do things the way you do them. That doesn’t mean they’re doing it wrong.
Maybe your roommate doesn’t do their dishes as quickly as you hoped they would, so you end up doing it yourself. Or you might take on tasks at work that could be delegated, but you’re worried the work won’t meet your standards. Maybe you don’t approve of your friend’s boyfriend, so you seek opportunities to undermine their relationship.
As we trust God’s control, let’s also extend trust to the people in our lives. They might not behave, perform, or produce in the same way we would—but that’s often okay. The people you trust might make mistakes, as we all do. But our mistakes help us grow. So, let’s extend trust, even when it hurts. When people fail, provide feedback and find appropriate ways to extend trust again.
3. Is it for God alone?
Would you agree that God can do things that we can’t do? I hope so. He’s all-powerful and knows everything. That means some things are on His to-do list that can’t be on ours.
We know that only God can provide salvation, healing, and peace. We also know He’s the only one who can truly change someone from the inside out. We partner with God in His mission to save the world, but we can’t do His job for Him.
Maybe you have a close friend or family member who doesn’t know Jesus. You want them to experience the life and peace only He can provide. So you pray, share your faith, and invest in their life. Those are great, necessary, and helpful things to do—and it’s wise to continue pursuing those opportunities. But we also need to remember that no amount of work can make them turn to Jesus.
In the same way, if there’s someone in your life who’s consistently making harmful choices, you can pray, show appropriate care, and connect them to helpful resources. But you can’t force them to change their life.
Our desire for control in these situations is well-meaning—but only God can change someone. Feeling pain, heartbreak, and frustration for our loved ones is okay. God is present in our pain and He understands our feelings.
So let’s be consistent in our care and always ready to give an answer about the hope we have within us. And as we do, let’s lean into our trust in God and His power to bring the change we can’t on our own.
Letting go of control is a process.
Trying to control too much is a burden you weren’t created to bear. We pray you find joy, rest, and inner peace as you take steps toward growing in trust. Letting go of control is a process, so it’s okay if it takes time. Keep pursuing Jesus, and believe that God is in control in every situation.