Where Are You in Charge?

My colleague Rev. John Rosenberg (director of the Lutheran Educational Network and Support) tells me he thought of me while standing in line for his morning latte recently. The quote of the day at the Java House was from Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), “Not being able to govern events, I govern myself.” Montaigne’s words are at least as true now as they were 400 years ago. Whether we are facing a traffic jam, a budget deficit, or trying to make sense of the Virginia Tech shootings or the war in Iraq, we are not able to govern events. The one area we have control over is how we respond to the challenges we face, big and small.

I like to say, it’s a matter of shifting from the impossible, controlling others, to the merely difficult, managing myself.

4 replies on “Where Are You in Charge?

  • kit ketcham

    Shades of my mother, gone these 12 years now, who taught me over and over again, “honey, you can’t change your sister, you can only change yourself.” Thanks, Mom, you didn’t know how cutting edge you were!

  • r.t. miller

    Thank you for the link. Father Joseph Martin of the 1970s Chalk Talk films on Alcoholism explained the Serenity Prayer that seems appropriate in this conversation:

    1) Lord, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (That is – everything outside of my self. 2) Lord, Grant me the strength to change the things I can change (that is everything about me) 3) And the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

  • Margaret Marcuson

    Yes, focusing on the behaviors of others often seems like the natural fix. And most of the advice given both formally and informally heads in that direction. The problem is that it provides at best a short-term fix and takes a lot of energy. Focusing on self is a long-term project that ultimately can give us more energy.

  • IGalindo

    This is a challenging insight. The paradox is that we’ll tend to have a healthier impact on the functioning of the systems we lead to the extend that we are able to work on managing ourselves. The natural temptation of leaders, of course, is to (over)focus on the symptoms of the systems and work at changing the behaviors of the persons who are acting out or underperforming.


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