Counselor vs. Control: The Ultimate Battle

97033289_57fab34574_o.jpgBy Sabrina Bartels – This past week, I started watching The Office on Netflix. I know that I’m a little behind the times, but it was a show that I really enjoyed back in college, and lost track of it when I started grad school. While there are many hilarious, and vaguely inappropriate, quotes that make me laugh, one of my favorite quotes wasn’t the punchline of a joke. It was from a character that had just gotten out of anger management classes. When a coworker makes fun of him for being in anger management, he simply looks at the coworker and says, “I can’t control what you do. I can only control what I do.”

I love this quote. I say it all the time to my students, whether they are struggling with drama or dating. Life would be so much simpler if we could all control what other people think and feel. It would be easier if we could read people’s minds, or force them to act a certain way.

Unfortunately, we can’t. Sometimes, we have to realize that we can only control our actions. If someone isn’t nice to us, we may have to be the bigger person and extend the olive branch first. If someone glares at us, we have to accept that we cannot force them to stop looking in our direction. We have the ability to control the outcomes of situations, whether that means walking away from a fight or accepting an apology.

But I also love this quote because it applies to us adults as well. It’s a quote that I have been thinking about recently. As a counselor, I always wish that I could control other people’s actions. Sometimes, I wish I could make students appreciate their parents more, or I wish that some parents would love their children a little more. I wish I could give people more time to spend with each other, or could convince another person to stop spending so much time with another individual. I wish I could make teachers and students understand each other; I’ve been working with a lot of drama between teachers and students recently. I wish our students could see us adults as “real people.” I wish some teachers could be more understanding about students and the situations they are dealing with at home.

Sometimes, it’s hard to give up that control. For some, giving up control means allowing yourself to be caught in a whirlwind of chaos. It’s giving yourself over to the unknown and the unstructured. It’s admitting that you do not have all the answers. It’s acknowledging that you are not perfect.

That’s really scary.

But as scary as it is, it can also be freeing. By realizing that you can only control what YOU think, what YOU do, how YOU act, you let go of the torture that comes with wondering how you can make someone do what you want. It’s never that easy. We can ask people to do things, both nicely and a little more harshly, but ultimately, it is that person’s decision. We have no control over it. And by wondering how we can get people to do exactly what we want, we become physically and mentally exhausted.

That’s my goal this Lenten season. Instead of giving up junk food, or hitting the snooze alarm, I am going to give up a little control. I am going to remind myself, every day, that I cannot control what other people do, I can only control what I do. I can’t control the parents, teachers, or students I work for. Instead, I can be there to support their decisions, listen to their concerns, and help guide their decision-making.

It’s a unique, and somewhat weird, vice to give up, but I have a feeling it will only lead to fantastic outcomes.

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