When you think of the word control, what do you get? Power? Strength? A feeling of thinking that things are the way they should be? Let’s face it, we all like to be in charge and in control at all times. COVID-19 brought out our desire for complete control to the point where we snap at anyone or anything that dares to threaten it. While we do need to take ownership over our own things, I’d like to pose this question for each and every one of us. What if we replaced the word “control” with the word “responsibility?” Now I know that the word responsibility may not be a fond word for many people, but it is a word that I believe we need to have a conversation about. In fact, we need to have a conversation about the difference between the words “control” versus “responsibility.”
What does the word “control” really mean? According to Merriam-Webster, the word “control” means “to have power over.” That definition sounds nice doesn’t it? When we have control, we have power…..or so we think. Why do I say that? Let me explain what I mean. Control often involves us putting our fingers into another person’s proverbial “pie” in order to get things to turn out in our favor. It also involves us taking on situations or things that are not ours to take on. Finally, control tends to focus on trying to getting other people to do what we would prefer that they do or believe what we believe. So when we tend to focus on control, we really aren’t in as much control as we think. Many times when we tend to put an emphasis on control, we tend to blur the lines of what is really ours to own versus what isn’t. This of course, leads to a large amount of anxiety in our own lives because we tend to be afraid of losing control, insecurity in our own individual gifts and talents, and a lack of boundaries with others because we are desperate to hold onto to everything with a vice like grip.
Now we come to the word that everyone tends to have a hard time with, responsibility. Many people tend to think that responsibility is equated to a punishment of some kind. On the contrary, responsibility is about taking ownership over what is ours to own. Please note the emphasis on the word ours. It is not by accident that I am paying particular attention to that word. Everyone of us owns something in our lives. We own our emotions, thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and property. And that is perfectly fine for us to do. In fact, it is what is necessary for us to do. When we take ownership of our personal things, it not only takes the pressure off of us as individuals, but it also gives us real, genuine, healthy power.
So what does responsibility do? When we are focused on being responsible, we don’t try to take over other people’s affairs. On the contrary, we put our primary focus on what is really ours (i.e. our feelings, behaviors, personal property, thoughts, and beliefs). We also don’t put an emphasis on trying to insert ourselves into situations that we don’t have any knowledge or experience of. We don’t try to force our beliefs, opinions, or preferences onto others for our own benefits. When we don’t focus on trying to control other people, it frees us to use our gifts, talents, and abilities in ways that we can use them best. Responsibility also helps us to operate within our own personal limits instead of going and over extending ourselves. Finally responsibility can help us foster healthy relationships with others because it generates a culture of respect between both parties.
I wish to pose a final question for you? Which one to you want? Do you want control, or do you want responsibility? Control may give you some sort of power, but it is power that can be easily taken away and often tends to leave us feeling anxious and unsafe. Responsibility helps us gain genuine, healthy power that helps us with building our self confidence and recognizing our value as people. Real power comes from us recognizing our own inherent worth as people, doing what we can to protect that worth, and allowing ourselves to enjoy that worth. Which one sounds more appealing to you?