Caring vs. Control

Tell me if I’m wrong but its hard when you care about people from crossing the line from caring vs control.  Even when people call you up in tears on the phone and ask you for your opinion it’s hard to realize when you care about them that they will do what they want regardless of what you think.

I realize now that I was trying to rescue my ex for years from himself.  He came over yesterday.  And he lounged on the couch as he waited for my son’s water polo practice to finish.  He is so overweight.  About 40-50lbs I’d say.  He smokes, he is under lots of stress and that red light flashes and that obnoxious alarm sound goes off in my head every time I see him.  Heart attack waiting to happen.  So I encourage him to start exercising, or eating better but I know from his body language to his words that it is going in one ear and out the other.  I want to care.  I cared for years.  I tried to help him but he saw it as me trying to control him and maybe he is right….I hated to see him choose what I thought was the “wrong choice”.

It’s been a long learning process for me to realize the difference between caring and control.

I have a friend in a state.  She has no money, presently no car, she is reliant on photography jobs for her living, is getting less support from her ex who just sued her for more time with her kids.  She has type 2 diabetes which is out of control and her kids are in major rebellion.  She called me yesterday in tears and I wanted so badly to lay it all out for her and tell her step by step what she needed to do to regain control in her life.  But she just wanted to vent.  She won’t change until she is ready and I’m not sure that time will ever come.  I care so much for her, she is one of my dearest friends.  But my heart aches when I see her and her kids suffer and in my mind it is needless suffering because I can see a way out if she would only take it.

And that is the tough part and I think the part that sends me over the edge sometimes from caring into control mode.  It hurts to watch people you love make choices that hurt them.  It is as if you are the passenger in their car and you see them heading for a ditch and they don’t see it so you grab the wheel and keep the car on the road for them.  And this is true especially in a spouse situation.  You ARE literally stuck in that car with them.  You are a team, partners in life.  What happens to him happens to you.  The quality of his life is directly related to the quality of yours.

I’ve been very aware as I get closer to marrying Martin how much I let myself care about him and his life.  I had done a really good job at realizing he was an adult who had survived 56 years without me and really didn’t need me to be telling him what to do until he got really sick.  I was stuck 6000 miles away and he was in the hospital simply because he made a bad choice in running on a hot day too hard and too long on a full stomach and then finding out he really wasn’t eating well or drinking enough water for his digestion.  It was three weeks of suffering for him as a result.  So my caring, mothering nature broke through and I started asking him every time I saw him if he was eating his fiber and drinking his water.  What a nag.  But I only did it because I cared.

And kids as they grow up really don’t need you to wipe their butts for them anymore.  You know?  You start out by doing everything for them.  They are totally and completely dependent on your for their survival but as they grow up they gain more independence and it is right and proper that you slowly let go of the control.  And that is totally cool as long as they are doing their homework, making good choices with friends and living their lives as you would have them to live.  But as soon as you don’t approve of something they do – then what?  How tight do you pull back on the reigns when they are say…almost 18?  It’s a tough one and I don’t really have the answer because I know every situation is different.

But what I do know is that you are born alone and you die alone and no one on this earth really owes you anything.  Just because you care doesn’t mean they should follow your advice.  We can express our disappointments and suggest what we’d like but in the end it is really up to them and the mistake is making them “pay for it” if they don’t do what you think they should do.

It’s that concept of somebody owing someone else that gets me in trouble sometimes.  I think but I did all this for you for all these years and you OWE it to listen to me and at least consider what I’m saying.  I’ve INVESTED in you.

But I’m realizing that kind of love isn’t the love God wants us to have for others.  It is possessive and no where in the Bible does it say we own our kids or our spouses.  Instead it tells us to love as God loves us.  God’s love is based on attraction not control.  His aim is draw us in through His goodness, through His kindness, His mercy and grace He extends to us, not punishment or manipulation.

My daughter quit Spanish and put it off til her senior year so she could be involved with a house band for Mardrigals.  Sounds like more fun for sure.  I knew she was excited about it so I bit my tongue and didn’t once make her feel like she was making the wrong decision.  Even though in the back of my mind I was worried she wouldn’t want to be taking Spanish 3 her senior year.   But she is happy and she’s living her life and that is what a mom wants to see.

My son has trouble keeping money in his account.  If it’s there he spends it.  This summer he took it upon himself to complete a Bible study on purity.  I never once told him to do it it. He did it completely on his own.  This week he told me now that he is finished with it he wanted to buy a purity ring to remind himself to wait for his wife.  I couldn’t have been more proud of his decision.  Completely on his own my almost 18-year-old is making the decision not to have sex until marriage.  Wow.  But he came home last night to show me the ring he bought and when he told me it cost $30 I realized he just blew the rest of his last check of the summer.  He was supposed to make the money last throughout the school year and in two days between his tennis shoes he “had to have” and this ring he was down $100.  But it was his choice and his money.  He is a good kid trying to make good choices.  So I bit my tongue again and said nothing.

Martin still hasn’t bought the ice chest you can plug into the trunk of his car so he can have fresh food with him while he’s on the road.  But he did find time to buy his iPad.  Much more fun and more exciting.  I shook my head….but what can I do?  He wanted the iPad to make it easier to chat to me.  I can’t tell him what to do no matter how much I think it will help him if he does.

Tough stuff.  But good lessons to learn.  I’d give myself a B right now.  Hopefully someday I’ll Ace this part of life.


2 responses to “Caring vs. Control

  1. Kudos to you if you Ace this part of life—parenting and loving can be mighty tough. Rewarding and irreplaceable both are–but I find it hard to find the exact formula. Thanks for another thought-provoking post.

  2. Pingback: A Thinking Man | Improvised Life·

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