Think of the thing that most frustrates you, causes you stress, or is the source of anxiety in your life. How often is it that the thing that most bothers you is outside your control? Often it is our relationship with other people that bothers us, and it is the fact that we can’t control those people leads to frustration.
So how can we avoid frustration and lead holy lives, even when there are things outside of our control that disturb our peace? Recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ discussed our desire to control things, and the solution to letting go of things that are outside our control.
“How much we would like to not allow things outside our control to perturb us,” he said. “But we get bothered and frustrated and upset by things. It’s really sad when you look at it. Because we oftentimes have no control over these things whatsoever. But we let them control us, don’t we?”
Whether it’s people on the road when we’re running late or people running our meetings, there is no shortage of opportunity to be bothered, because other people are bothersome. Right? Well, not necessarily. Fr. Matthew suggested that rather than allowing our mood or emotions to be dictated by other people, we should recognize that while we may not have control of what other people do, we do have control over how we react to them.
He said, “I think part of the major solution here is you and I learning to live our lives intentionally and learning to live our lives carefully and attentively.”
Too often we’re going through life, doing our own thing, and things are going well. And when we bump up against an obstacle we feel okay taking out our frustration on it. The danger comes in thinking we control the universe, when the fact is that we usually don’t even control our own emotions and reactions.
Fr. Matthew warned that when things are going well, “We lose sight of the fact that we need to be vigilant about staying virtuous, that we shouldn’t lose sight of the need to practice charity, to practice patience, all the different virtues that you need to have, in certain times. If we lived our life more attentively, more carefully as Catholics, the world would be a different place.”
“No matter what’s going on in our life, if we’re not careful to live intentionally, if we’re not striving for virtue, if we’re not working hard to practice the virtues God wants us, then we’re going to end up being frustrated, becoming resentful, allowing things well outside of our control to shape our reactions, and even our attitude to the world.”
In the moment, it can be difficult to let go of the frustration and stress that a lack of control can bring. But Fr. Matthew suggested that the key to peace is looking at the big picture, at who we want to become and where we ultimately want to go.
“I think if we’re going to be saints, we have to take control of our own lives and the way we react,” he said. “We have a long road ahead of us. I’m in this with you. I still have a long way to go, and you do too. That’s okay. Let’s work on it together. Let’s realize God wants us to exercise patience. God wants us to be beacons of love, of quiet patience, of enduring virtue in the world.”
“But it takes living a conscientious life and deliberately striving to share the love of Jesus with the world. And deciding whether we’re going to be controlled by the world, or whether we’re going to respond the way God wants us to – with charity and virtue.”
Listen to the full reflection below: