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Control Freak

by CRAIG GROESCHEL

Hi, my name is Craig and I am a control freak.

That’s not a cognitive bias; that’s just a fact. When I say I’m controlling, I mean that I am controlling. Come to my house and check out who’s holding the remote control. I am. If our TV is on, I have the remote. Why? Because God ordained me to handle this special spiritual calling. My family wants to watch what’s on, but only I have the God-given gift of caring more about what else might be on. Because God’s favor is upon me, we are able to watch twelve to fourteen shows at one time. Why? Because I am in control of the remote control.

Get in a car with me and see who’s driving. I am. Does not matter who else is in the car or whose car it is. I’m driving. Yes, I will drive you in your car. And if for some end-of-times, sign-of-the-apocalypse reason someone else is driving the car, there is a good chance I will grab the steering wheel from my seat and take over. You think I’m kidding? I’m not kidding. Because I’m controlling.

Are there some ways in which you’re controlling? How would your family or friends answer that for you? Perhaps you use reverse psychology on your kids, drop not-so-subtle hints to your spouse about your expectations for your anniversary, or humble-brag to your boss to make sure you get credit for work he didn’t know about. Those are all control issues.

Here’s the problem: being in control is an illusion.

I don’t like to admit this, but I cannot control what has happened to me, and I cannot control what will happen to me.

Neither can you. No matter how hard you try, you cannot control what’s happened in the past or what will happen in the future. That’s bad news, but there is good news.

You cannot control what’s happened or what will happen, but you can control how you perceive it.

Social psychologists have a name for taking control of how we perceive things. They call it cognitive reframing. It’s when we learn to identify and correct irrational thinking. We could say this happens when we unbias our bias.

Our frame is how we view things. It’s the cognitive bias through which we look at and interpret what’s happening. Reframing is when we decide we are not going to hang on to old perceptions that have worked against us. We are going to choose a different, more godly, more productive way of thinking.

Experts in the psychotherapeutic world share steps that help us to reframe, to take control of our thoughts and overcome our cognitive bias, such as:

Stay calm. If you react, you will probably react the way you’ve always reacted.

Identify the situation. What exactly, and truly, is happening?

Identify your automatic thoughts. If something at my house breaks and I know it will be an expensive repair, my automatic response is to panic just a little bit. But while I cannot control what breaks, I can control how I perceive it. So instead of just thinking my automatic thought, I identify that thought. I can take it captive and make it obedient to Christ. Then I take an additional step:

Find objective supportive evidence. I want to deal in reality, and so I search for objective data on which to base my thinking, such as: Things are going to break. They always do eventually. That’s why you have an emergency fund. Just call someone to get it fixed. There is no reason to freak out.

You can take these same steps. You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you frame it.

You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you frame it.

The GOAT (greatest of all time) of reframing was the apostle Paul.

Paul had a strategic plan for advancing the gospel—go to Rome. If he could get to Rome and preach Jesus to the leaders there, the city could become a launchpad to spread the gospel all over the world.

When Paul finally got to Rome, it was not to share Jesus with government officials. He went there as a prisoner. He was locked up under house arrest, chained to a rotating contingent of guards, awaiting a possible execution. Paul prayed for an opportunity, but it was not happening.

Paul’s circumstances were out of his control. Circumstances are almost always out of our control.

You’ve been where Paul was.

You thought, If I just get this degree, I will get that job. You got the degree, but you did not get the job.

You planned on being married by now, but you have not found Mr. or Mrs. Right.

Or you did find and marry the right person, but everything went wrong. This is not the way life was supposed to go.

You’ve been praying for years for your prodigal child, but God has not answered that prayer.

Paul was in that same situation—circumstances he did not want and could not control. He wrote to the church at Philippi about what was happening to him. What might he have said? He could have written, “Now, I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me really sucks. I wanted to spread the good news through preaching to government officials, but that did not happen. As a result of this hell I’ve been through, I have decided prayer doesn’t work, and I am never going back to church again.”

But that is not what Paul wrote. Could have been, but no. Remember, Paul couldn’t control what happened to him, but he could control how he framed it. Here’s what he actually wrote to the Philippians: “I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear” (Phil. 1:12–14 NLT).

Paul was saying, “I had a plan, but God had a better plan! This is a whole different way to advance the gospel than what I was thinking. God has blessed me with prison guards who are chained to me. They have no choice but to listen to me tell them about Jesus! These soldiers have the ear of influential leaders! And, get this, every eight hours they chain a new guard to me! And they think I’m the prisoner. Ha! God is moving. I can’t wait to see what he does next!”

You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you frame it.

The third tool to change your thinking is the Reframe Principle: Reframe your mind, restore your perspective. (The first tool is the Replacement Principle: Remove the lies, replace with truth. The second tool is the Rewire Principle: Rewire your brain, renew your mind.) Reframing has changed my thinking and changed my life.

Reframing your past—and preframing your future—will change your life.

 

Excerpted with permission from Winning the War in Your Mind by Craig Groeschel.

This excerpt was featured in the March 31, 2021 Midweek edition of The Sunday Paper. The Sunday Paper publishes News and Views that Rise Above the Noise and Inspires Hearts and Minds. To get The Sunday Paper delivered to your inbox each Sunday morning for free, click here to subscribe.

CRAIG GROESCHEL

A senior pastor of Life.Church, Craig Groeschel is a leadership expert, creator of the Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast, and a New York Times best-selling author of books on a wide variety of topics, including dating and marriage, social media, purpose, direction, church leadership, and more. His latest book, Winning the War in Your Mind, shows you how to break free from the grip of destructive thinking, enabling you to live the life of joy and peace God has for you. To learn more visit craiggroeschel.com.

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