Are you fascinated or frustrated by people?

Do you find yourself more often fascinated or frustrated by other people? Your answer to this question may reveal more about you than it does about the other people in your life.

If you are constantly frustrated by other people it may be because on a subconscious level you are trying to control them and by nature people are infuriatingly difficult, if not outright impossible to control. Our efforts to control others generally stem from our desire for others to act in such a way that makes our lives easier. However, people generally are more likely to act in ways that make their lives easier.

On the other hand, if you find yourself fascinated by people it is likely because you gave up long ago on being able to control others and began focusing instead on how you could bless others. A wise counselor once said to me: “The more you try to control others, the less you influence them. And the more you try to bless them, the more you influence them.”

Giving up on our ill-fated attempts to control others allows us to see others as infinitely complex lovable talented imperfect people, rather than as puzzles to be solved. I don’t know about you, but personally I have a lot more interest in talking with someone who sees me as a complex fascinating person than as a puzzle to be solved. Seeing others as complex and fascinating helps us bless them by becoming someone who can help them become who they are always wanted to be.

Having given up on our attempts to control, we no longer become so worked up when others act in ways that are not in our self-interest or when they sometimes act in ways that are not even in their self-interest. Instead, when this occurs we redouble our efforts to understand and to bless.  This does not mean our hearts do not break when people make poor decisions with terrible consequences. I truly believe the old saying – “hurt people, hurt people” – is true more often than not. When you become fascinated by people you begin to care not only about getting them to stop hurting others, but about helping them find healing from the pain that causes them to hurt others and themselves.

The subjects of frustration and fascination as well as control and influence are far too complicated to be fully reckoned with in a short blog post. It’s true, sometimes we have to control others for their own good: a child may not want to wear a seat, but a good parent won’t start driving until they are buckled in. And even the greatest man to ever live who himself was fascinated by Jews and Gentiles and who warned us not to ever call anyone else a fool, occasionally expressed some fairly intense frustration. Remember the time he called religious scribes and his own disciples a “crooked and perverse generation” (Matthew 17:17) or the time he compared Peter to Satan (Matthew 16:23).

Still, it seems to me that our basic orientation to either control or bless will have a lot to do with whether we spend our lives frustrated or fascinated by the people around us. And I know I could be a lot more intentional about trying to bless others than control them. So I’d like to invite you to join me, at least for today, in seeking to bless more and control less. I have a feeling it will be fascinating experiment.    

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