Have you ever been struck by another vehicle and the car you are in starts to spin and you have no control over where it is going or where it winds up stopping or what it might collide with in the in-between?  I have and it is just that kind of feeling – that loss of control- that is maybe my biggest fear.

Watching the news the last several weeks has been akin to the spinning car as we have all watched the global domino affect of COVID-19 feeling helpless in our living rooms unless, that is, you are in health care and then it is a different kind of  spinning out of control they are experiencing.  

My biggest fear, other than the common ones like something happening to my children, are situations where I feel I am not in control. Hmmm. Does that mean I am a controlling person? What would the origin of this fear be? What parts of life does this affect?

I am not a drinker or a drug user. It never appealed to me for a variety of reasons, the main one being I cannot imagine not being in control of what I do or say and perhaps hurting myself or others. That thought pretty much scares me to death. It makes me feel vulnerable and at risk.

Having witnessed adults not in control due to substance abuse while growing up, I decided early on I never wanted to be that person. This could be the origin of my fear when I am in situations over which I have no control.

In 1993, we were a young family with sons ages 4 and 7, on the Sunday that our house caught fire while we were gone to church. It was a very cold March day, a dreary day, with snow remaining on the ground from earlier in the week. We stood and watched, I in a skirt and heels, as everything we owned was lost. The house sat back far from the street in a rural area and the fire trucks could not get water there quick enough to save it. It was an old farmhouse and it went up like a torch. We lived in a close-knit community and friends were there while it was still burning asking us about sizes, stuffing money in our pockets and purse and offering their coats as it was so cold that day. There are few things, I would think, that create more a feeling of having lost control of a situation than watching your house burn to the ground. I have to say though that while our house and belongings were gone, the giving and loving spirit of our friends and family was life-giving, sustaining and unforgettable and we have always been grateful.

We have covered “life situations” now and how they play into this fear of not having control but what about people and relationships? Would I be considered a controlling person?

I have never thought anyone has to be like me. It is a tenet of Christianity that we strive to be like Jesus and everyone should and therefore everyone needs to be like us, so to speak. I have always thought  who the heck am I that anyone should be like me?  Are we all not like grains of sand in this universe? Certainly, I have few answers about anything.  Respect for differences in people and having an interest in learning about how we are both the same and different is something I love.

I do, however, have high expectations of others at times. Could that be considered controlling? Currently, an enjoyable activity I have been able to do during this Covid quarantine is a “walk and talk”. I plug my earbuds into my iPhone, suit up in my walking shoes (no need to put on elastic waisted pants as that is all I have worn right through here) and call friends while getting a great dose of sunshine and cardiac activity. It has been a bright spot in my day.

“I tend to always surround myself with people who do what they say they are going to do”, my friend said one day this week while we were each walking on separate sides of town.

“Me, too! That is a really big thing to me. I don’t do well with people who are not consistent and don’t follow through on what they say.”

In “The Speed of Trust”, Stephen M.R. Covey writes extensively about this trait in people and the important role it plays in building trust with others. Keeping commitments is the quickest way to build trust in any relationship. He goes further to say “‘When you make a commitment, you build hope; when you keep a commitment, you build trust”. When commitments are not kept, it creates immediate distrust.

We would all agree that keeping one’s word and the ability to follow through is a desirable and worthy trait to which we should all aspire.

As I looked more closely at the high expectation I have for others (and myself) to honor their words and commitments it helped me to decipher my fear as being something other than the feeling of loss of control. My fear is that of being vulnerable. Vulnerable for letdown, to suffer hurt feelings, to be disappointed. I shy away from vulnerability.

I watched Brene’ Browns hugely popular TedTalk on vulnerability again (47,087,379 views!). It is excellent. She talks about how to lean into vulnerability and become a “whole-hearted” person who has a deep sense of worthiness and the courage to place yourself in a vulnerable situation. Vulnerability is at the core of our struggle for worthiness but is also the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging and love. If you never allow yourself to experience vulnerability out of fear of being hurt, you also miss out on many good things. You can listen to her TedTalk  and learn more here. 

My father told me once when I was making a critical decision, “Sometimes you just have to take a risk.”

When we place ourselves in vulnerable situations it can be a sign of courage and confidence. It also allows us to be more grace filled people toward others when we feel secure enough within ourselves to allow people to make mistakes and to know those mistakes are not about us.  And that is a sign we know deep down we are of value in this world and to others.  We must not be afraid to be our authentic selves and know we are worthy recipients of love and friendship.

“Afraid, afraid, afraid, afraid, afraid. That is the refrain of what we are and what we do. But don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to live and laugh and love. Don’t be afraid to give and serve and care. Don’t be afraid to speak and do. Don’t be afraid.”- Fred Craddock