Humans are funny creatures. We spend the majority of time trying to change things that are out of our control. The truth is, if we look at all the things we can control, they boil down to just three! My thoughts, my feelings, and my actions (which includes my reactions and inaction). Everything else falls within the outer circle-the area that is out of my control.
A third area exists though, which is rarely talked about. It’s what I refer to as the Circle of Influence. This is a bit of a gray area because it includes things I can control (such as our language, tone & volume of voice, and body language), which may or may not influence things that are outside of our control. The fact that it may or may not influence our circumstance makes it still out of our control. This seems like a pretty basic concept. So why does it give us so much trouble?
Let’s apply it to what we know: Circumstances do not cause our feelings; our thoughts about our circumstances do. We know this to be true because two different people can experience the same circumstance and have completely different reactions to them -based on their thoughts. Understanding this concept is incredibly liberating. Consider the alternative. If circumstances really do create our feelings, we’re up a creek without a paddle! The only hope we would have of feeling better would be by changing the circumstance. (Which I’m guessing you’ve already tried without success. If you could control your circumstance, you wouldn’t be struggling so hard!)
1. They under-emphasize their influence in order to absolve themselves of responsibility.
When this information is abused, people could use it as a way to manipulate others, falsely exonerating themselves of any guilt or responsibility for their actions. In it’s most evil sense, a person uses this logic to say, “I can do whatever I want. You choose if it hurts you or not. That’s on you; not me.” This could, in deed, be the making of narcissism.
When I first learned these concepts that I teach today, I struggled with the morality behind how it could be misused. And then,
while working with a survivor of spiritual abuse, I realized that even the Bible itself has been twisted and used by people to manipulate others and benefit the self. God has given us free will to choose good or evil. Just because something could be used for evil does not mean it was not created for good.
2. They over-emphasize influence as an attempt to gain control.
This is the opposite, but not necessarily to the extreme. In this case, we give our “influence” too much weight, accepting more responsibility than is ours to bear. Our daughter made the unfortunate mistake of egging someone’s house with a friend when in middle school. By having her apologize to the home owner and spend a Saturday scrubbing his siding, we attempted to influence her future behavior. (It worked!) There’s nothing wrong with using our influence in this manner, but we have to remember that influence is still not control. She may have decided it was worth the extra day’s work to look cool to her friends!
3. They accept the balance of freedom and responsibility
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