Control, Responsibility And The Disconnect Between Them

5 min readJul 7, 2019

Most people desire control without the responsibility that comes with it.

I had a conversation with my Dad yesterday and he said something, he stated an observation, one that I’ve known for a while, but never heard it articulated so clearly. I can’t recall the words exactly, but here it is, paraphrased:

More control means more responsibility.

Now I’ve known for two decades that I don’t want control over other people, places or things. I don’t want to control anyone or anything. I’ve been there. I’ve tried to control things and my experience was frustrating, disappointing, unnerving. I have a hard enough time just controlling my own body. I think I might have control over 1% of my body, and I’m pretty sure that if I had more control, that I’d screw things up pretty good.

I see control as an illusion. I recognize, from years of reading science, that we’re just a buzzing collection of atoms and subatomic particles that no one has ever really seen directly, with their eyes. We can infer their existence through the fantastic instruments we have built, like particle accelerators and scanning tunneling electron microscopes, but we can’t see them with our own eyes. I don’t think we’re built for that, and there is a really good reason for our limitations of perception. Our perception of reality is limited so that we can survive.

Therefore, our perception and the limits of our control is a requirement for our survival. If we needed greater capacity for control, we’d have it for our survival. The process of natural selection would require greater control of our surroundings. But judging by the 7 billion people on the planet, we don’t need more control than we already have. And with each and every headline about climate change, a term that is now slowly morphing into “climate crisis”, we are learning that we’re screwing things up pretty badly.

As much as you or I may desire control, we almost certainly don’t want the responsibility that comes with control. If I have control over someone else and they are injured as a result of my control, do I want that kind of responsibility? I’d say, “no”. Yet, there are millions of Americans who find that their desire for control is justified when it comes to other countries, other families, other people, and other things. And when things go wrong? You should see all the deflection going on.