[Repost] Thoughts on not getting what you want.

Have you ever felt like what you did or said changed your course so completely that you ruined your chances of achieving something?

That a decision you made created conditions that made it impossible for you to get what you want?

That a part of you had so turned somebody off — be it an acquaintance, a potential employer, a guy or a girl — that had you only spoken or behaved differently, the rupture that rendered your relationship over forever never would have existed.

That thanks to you, you lost what you should’ve, would’ve, could’ve had.

As if we have that kind of control.

The truth is we are in control of what we say and do. And sometimes, that thing we say or do does, in fact, change your course so completely that what you thought you had coming never comes. And sometimes, that decision you make does create conditions that aren’t favorable for getting what you want.

But an important and often neglected part of this truth is that because my course or conditions change or somebody walks away because of me does not mean I didn’t get what I should’ve gotten. It means I didn’t get what wasn’t meant to be — that I didn’t get what wasn’t designed for me.

And if it wasn’t for me, why would I even want it?

Once, Job said this to God (Job 42:2): “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.”


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A version of this post originally appeared in 2011.


In one of my favorite books, writer and researcher Brene Brown says this: “There are many ways in which men and women hustle for worthiness … the two that keep us the most quiet and still are hustling to be perceived as ‘cool’ and ‘in control.’ … Being ‘in control’ isn’t always about the desire to manipulate situations, but often it’s about the need to manage perception. We want to be able to control what other people think about us …”

She talks a lot about inhibition.

I think inhibition is about calculation.

Inhibition is only doing something if we can predict the results of doing it.

(If we can predict it, we can feel in control.)

Inhibition is not doing something if we can’t predict the results of doing it.

Which implies…

-we want to fit in
-we don’t want to deviate (and we aren’t sure if we do)
-our fears of being judged, rejected, misunderstood, criticized, stereotyped or incorrectly categorized outweigh our desires for being authentic.

Which implies…

-we care (a lot) about what other people think of us
-we are more likely to follow external guides than internal ones

Which means…

-when we most feel in control, we actually aren’t in control at all, because
-we don’t make our own decisions; other people’s (potential or actual) thoughts and feelings make our decisions for us.

We are so afraid not to fit in, or to deviate, or to be judged or rejected that we don’t notice the way our effort to avoid those things requires us to relinquish…

-our freedom
-our repose

So consider this — something else Brene Brown says:

“One of the biggest surprises in this research was learning that fitting in and belonging are not the same thing, and, in fact, fitting in gets in the way of belonging. Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”

Back seat driver.

It dawned on me the other day that I am a “backseat driver.”

I am the kind who doesn’t mind (and even prefers) that the driver is the one in control of the car. But even as the person not behind the wheel, I sometimes find it hard to forsake driver-like vigilance. I like to see what’s coming.

There are two kinds of this kind of backseat driver. Both watch out for what goes on around the car. But one is compelled to warn the driver about what he or she sees coming, and the other isn’t. I have been both.

The one who warns the driver doesn’t want to control the car. But he or she also doesn’t trust the actual driver — not wholly, anyway. He or she may want to trust (because goodness knows it is a relief to relax, which is a passenger’s privilege). But he or she may not trust because of a bad past experience, or narcissism (“I can see better than you can [because I am better than you are]!”), or because his or her particular driver isn’t a good one. This kind of backseat driver is also annoying, frankly. No human wants to be this person’s driver. And most drivers take this person’s commentary personally, unless the driver knows the root of this person’s distrust and is able to empathize with him or her.

The backseat driver who isn’t compelled to warn the actual driver also doesn’t wholly trust the driver (if he or she did, he or she would not, in fact, be a backseat driver). This kind definitely wants to trust the driver. This kind also would like to cash in on his or her right to revel in the relief that comes with knowing you are in good hands. So while his or her driver-like vigilance wavers — sometimes he or she trusts, other times he or she doesn’t — this kind remembers to reflect on some things.

Like the fact that as a passenger, whether you do or don’t trust the driver, you still are going to end up where ever the driver takes you.

Or the fact that as a passenger, it is not your responsibility to tell a good driver what to do.

Or the fact that (ideally), you wouldn’t be in this car with this driver if you didn’t think this driver was good.

Or the fact that from where we sit, we can’t always see as much as the driver sees, or ever see it from the same perspective.

Or the fact that we really are free to relax while the driver takes care of the driving.

And so quietly, while this second kind of backseat driver pays attention but also reflects on the above, he or she practices trust. And at red lights and stop signs, he or she reflects on the parts of the ride that are behind them. And in retrospect, it is easier to see that, “I can trust this driver. And I do.”

The other day, it also dawned on me that this — how good at being passengers we are — might be a metaphor.

What if life is the ride?

What if God is the driver?