I’m Just Saying: The question isn’t if you need control – it’s when

Kim Thompson


It doesn’t happen every day. But when it does, it’s a sour stomach, or a tight chest, a swollen throat or a full-blown headache. I have to stop and breathe. It takes a while to realize I’ve been clenching my teeth for an hour. My emotional vault is spilling over.

Extreme warning: This Minnesotan lacks control! May cause emotional hemorrhaging!

I don’t mean I can’t control my actions or choices. I’m talking about the physiological result of having no control over everything outside of myself. I utterly despise this fact.

And yet, I am comforted by this other fact: It’s no different for you.

I’m weary of people who imply or openly deny their need for control. It is like saying you don’t need air like those other air-mongers.

If you think you don’t seek to control, just place your phone into a locked drawer for three days but remain in your regular life without it. How about when someone steps in front of you as if you were not there? Still don’t see it? Maybe let your daughter leave with an older boy you don’t like. Just smile and wave! The question isn’t if you need control. It’s when.

Unless you have reached Chopra’s seventh stage of spirituality, you will experience a yearning for control.

We can work on it though. We can do better. We can learn how to manage it. We can laugh at it. We can own it. We can even find delightful ways to counter it. I, personally, like to cry. But please. Let us stop denying it.

Twice this month I listened to friends claim they did not wish to control the outcome of another’s choice. They feared what would happen “if they pushed too hard.” Doesn’t that mean they attempted control by not acting? Both of these people chose complete passivity. They believed that to refuse to react was the wiser way.

This may prove wise to some degree, but what I was observing in both of these people is passivity with an invisible bite, a staunch and defiant refusal to speak to the person involved, or a refusal to acknowledge any emotion at all, or a resistance to speaking one’s truth. They had holed up in a cave, wishing the problem would somehow magically get resolved and expecting the other party to know they cared.

The truth is they cared very much. However, the opposing party could not have known anyone cared, since the passive parties, in all their superior and stellar self-control, had left the building. That is not love. That is abandonment.

When I asked my friend what he thought he’d accomplished by taking no action toward his son, he stated mournfully that he didn’t wish to be like his own “control freak” father. He feared that had he asserted himself, his son would retaliate or self-harm. Still, he was controlling his child with his passivity, one that likely felt diminishing and lonely for the child.

Sometimes our kids (and really anyone we love) need to know we care enough to get emotional. Sometimes they need to see what happens when they cross a line. Sometimes they need us to step in and name the rules. They need us to be brave and to be truth tellers. If we go away, all they learn is that they should have been perfect so you would stay.

It’s the same with my friends. The brave souls who “tell me like it is” are rare indeed. I think it’s down to two. I resent those who slink away when in conflict and blame me for their cowardice. Don’t hide from me. Don’t ghost me. Stop controlling me with your silence. Love me enough to be direct.

I long for people who will care enough to talk to me, to help me understand what they need from me, to work with me. Is honor such a fleeting thing? I beg of you, look your people in the eye and speak your truth. Do it with love instead of self-righteousness. Take the risk of telling them what you really think.

Yes, you may be met with defiance. Perhaps you will be met with submission. Or compromise. But be sure, no act could be closer to having complete control over me.

Kim Thompson has three sons and has been teaching high school English for 26 years, 20 of them at Stillwater schools. Her family has resided in Stillwater for six generations.