Sunday’s Wisdom #414: Care vs Control

“It was his nature, man and beast, to take care of the people around him. When he was courting Mercy, he’d come to the reluctant understanding that taking control of her life – and and maybe especially for her own good – was the opposite of care. Experimentally, he’d applied that understanding to his pack, and he’d seen it become healthier, stronger.”
– from Soul Taken, by Patricia Briggs

The “he” in question is the male lead of the series, Adam Hauptman, a werewolf, the Alpha of his pack, whose duty it is to protect said pack. He was a protector before he was turned and that has not ceased in the decades since. However, his approach has altered little by little due to his love for the female lead, Mercy Thompson. She is not one to tolerate being controlled, which runs a bit counter to the werewolf approach of protecting by means of control. There is a certain validity to that, as sometimes a werewolf’s wild side runs amok and must be controlled externally. However, what Adam has learned is that trying to control someone else is an extreme measure, sometimes useful in an emergency but not fit for everyday use.

Indeed, the more control one exerts over another, the less “caring” there is in the equation. People become things that are in need of controlling “for their own good,” instead of being actual people.

To be controlled is to be suppressed, stifled, and suffocated. There are cases where that needs to be done, where people who commit crimes and think nothing of treading on other people’s lives must be stopped, but that is in the case of the guilty, not the innocent. If someone has murderous tendencies which they do not control themselves, that is something which very much needs to be controlled externally, and we do it all the time: we throw them in prison or execute them. Hardly something we ought to be doing to the innocent people we love though, is it?

A parent may wish to protect their child from all the evils of the world forever. One may want nothing more than to protect a friend, a lover, or a family member from the consequences of their actions. One may want to save the world and save everyone from all the hardships that befall them. And I can hardly count the number of times I’ve heard people saying what amounts to, “If God exists, he shouldn’t let anything bad happen at all.”

But what often comes of that desire? The same as any other desire left unchecked and unrestrained: suffering at every level.

Parents become tyrants, pushing their children so hard that they push them away. People spout about all the wrongs of the world, but ignore the crimes of those they love, upending justice itself, and creating all the greater harm in the long run. Flowery rhetoric about caring for the little guy fuels destructive political agendas that march over the freedoms and corpses of every person in the world, turning charity into a slaughterhouse as every dissenting voice is crushed without mercy, where even torture is justified as being for the sake of the victim.

Perhaps the reason God does not take control of us is exactly because He cares about us.

I recall a moment in another book I read as a youth, which taught, quite simply, that when you wish to protect something, you must set it free.

It is a difficult thing, I know, to take a step back and let go of those we care for even more than we care for ourselves. But the option is to put chains on them, and there is no caring in that.

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