May 172018 1 Response

The Source of Most Inner Turmoil

We can’t avoid all turmoil. Life is difficult. Sorrows are certain. Many emotions need to be experienced. Turmoil is a part of life. But not every trouble is necessary. Some of the anxieties or struggles we face are chosen. We don’t have to experience inner turmoil, frustration, or uncertainty. Instead, on some occassions, they are a byproduct of poor choices.

Most inner turmoil results from the failure to ask, answer, and live in light of three basic questions.

  1. What’s mine?
  2. What’s theirs?
  3. What’s God’s?

These three simple questions can radically transform our lives. When we consider them, answer them, and live by what we know to be true, we greatly reduce the number of struggles, frustrations, and sorrows we experience.

What’s mine? This question empowers us to understand what we control and what we do not. We all have responsibilities which are fully ours. We have decisions to make. Our thoughts belong to us. We control our own sense of happiness and satisfaction. It is our job to determine who we want to be, what we want to do, and those with whom we want to share life. We control far more than we realize. (See: You Control What Matters Most)

What’s theirs? While we control much, we don’t control everything. Some things are beyond our realm of oversight. We do not control the thoughts, actions, or choices of others. While we can influence them, we can’t control them. Our friends, co-workers, families, children, and parents own the responsibility for their own lives. We can help others, but we cannot remove their responsibility for many things which are fully theirs.

What’s God’s? Some things are beyond earthly influence. What others call fate or chance, I believe is controlled by God. There are some things which we can’t force, change, or manipulate. We have to trust and accept.

When we fail to ask and rightly answer these questions, the result is chaos. Denying our responsibilities, we fixate on things we can’t control–what belongs to others and God. Frustrated, we attempt to assert ourselves in places we have no business and feel helpless with the fate of our lives. The result is turmoil.

Tee-Ball Mommas

My favorite illustration of these divisions is on the little league baseball field. During a tee-ball game, everyone should know their role: players play, coaches coach, officials officiate, and parents parent. It’s pretty simple. But without fail, someone will forget their role. A parent will try to coach or a coach will try to officiate and the result is chaos. Forgetting their role, their passions rise and they make a fool of themselves simply because they failed to do their job and instead tried to do the job of someone else.

Everyone knows that in a little league game, each person needs to play their own role and let others do the job they are supposed to do. But why do we forget that in other areas of life? At work, in school, at home, and in marriage, we need to continually remind ourselves of what is our job and what belongs to others. (See: 3 Things a Parent Should Do From the Stands)

Nowhere is this more difficult than in parenting. When we first become parents, we don’t struggle with these three questions, because nearly everything is mine. Parents of newborns are completely in charge. Yet as the kids age, responsibility is slowly shifted from the parents to the child. It’s a shift that is very difficult for parents. If we, as moms and dads, don’t continually reminds ourselves what belongs to us, what belongs to our children, and what belongs to God, we will regularly overstep our bounds and interfere in the lives of our children. This will be to our detriment and theirs. We must ask the three questions and then live by the difficult answers.

These three questions apply to more than just parenting.

Consider:

Marriage. Husband and wife must continually ask “what is mine” “what is my husband’s/wife’s” and “what is God’s?” When they fail to do so, they will likely ignore responsibilities which are rightly theirs and taking on responsibility for things which they should leave alone. We often see this in the case of addiction when a non-addicted spouse is removing the natural consequences of poor choices by a spouse in the middle of addiction.

Extended family. Where a newly married couple spends their first Christmas is there choice. Old traditions should be considered, but new patterns of behavior must be formed. Yet if a grandma tries to guilt the young couple into attending her family dinner, she is failing to ask and answer the questions. Her guilt will have negative effects.

Work. As someone who oversees employees, I must always remind myself what is my job and what is the job of those who work for me. I can’t make them happy. It’s not my job to ensure their hearts are whole and engaged. That’s their job. Yet when I try to make them happy, I’m failing to lead them well.

Faith. As a believer, I have a responsibility. It is my job to live and communicate the truth. But I can’t make anyone believe it or obey it. Their job is to hear and obey. Yet ultimately it is God who converts. However, when I try to play God or manipulate the other person, I’m certain to experience frustration. Parents, consider: Do you have the faith to trust God to work His plan in your child’s life?

Three Questions

What’s mine? What’s theirs? What’s God’s? These three questions hold the potential of greatly freeing us from unnecessary stress, guilt, and pressure. While we can never free ourselves from all the turmoils of life, we should take every opportunity to rid ourselves of any stressors which aren’t necessary. Much of the inner turmoil we experience is simply the byproduct of us trying to ignore what is our responsibility or take on decisions which do not belong to us.

One Response to The Source of Most Inner Turmoil
  1. Terry Kerr Reply

    Kevin,

    Excellent article, chock-full of wisdom. Thank you for reminding me to focus on my role, what I can and cannot control.

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