A Choice That Can Reduce Anxiety

Jul 13, 2015

I have found a way to reduce much of the stress in my life. Actually, let me re-phrase that: A way to reduce much of the stress in my life found me. I wasn’t looking for this stress reducer, but it hit me like an 18-wheeler and set me on a new path.

Much of the stress in my life is caused by my expectations,as well as my trying to controlsituations so they turn out the way I think they should. This happens consciously and unconsciously. Lovely.

For example, a few years ago I took two friends to lunch in order to set some things straight. I thought they weren’t communicating well with each other and I wanted to help them see that. I wanted to “make the situation better.”

If you are good at foreshadowing, you can see where this is headed. You might have even warned me back then to simply mind my own business. Good counsel. Evidently, I like to learn things the hard way.

I had told both of them before the lunch that I thought they needed to talk and repair/refresh their friendship. It is amazing to me now that they both agreed to this.

We chit chatted through most of lunch. Near the end, I brought up the subject of their relationship. After a few minutes of halted conversation, one of them sat silently and the other began to get angry at me. The one who was angry finally said, “That’s it” and walked out of the restaurant. The other two of us got up and followed. It was over.

This is a very embarrassing story for me. I am embarrassed now because I can see the futility of this situation. I had no right to “take control” and try to fix something that was actually none of my business.

It was like a slap in the face. I was awake and I would never be the same. I wasn’t even mad at the two friends. They were right to be upset with me.

On the way to the car I could feel viscerally the reality of the meaning of “free will.” People get to choosehow they behave and what they do in their relationships. It was not my job to “make things right.”

I didn’t actually know the whole story. And even if I did, my opinion should have stayed my own unless I was asked for it.

Now, if I find myself deciding how a person should behave, I say to myself, “They get to choose how they react, respond or behave. I don’t get to choose that for them.”

In those phrases I find freedom and a sense of peace for myself. I can let go. As the Al-Anon saying goes, “I work on keeping my own side of the street clean.”

Yes, we all have situations in our lives that aren’t going the way we want. But much of the anxiety we carry is actually brought on by our own fears and a desire for control. We want to put our fears to rest, so we try to control people and situations.

Control is an illusion. We do not get to control other adults. Every person gets to choose how they act, what they say, and how they deal with their own lives.

Please hear my heart of care. I learned this the hard way, after many years of unconscious holding on. Letting go has been one of the greatest gifts I could have given myself. A new realm of peace has opened up to me.

Letting go is a process, and a good starting place is in the loving arms of God. In Him we live, move, and have our being.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. (Romans 8, Message)

Photo by Radu Florin on Unsplash