It is my desire today to write about chaos. Chaos is all around us and affects us in so many ways. For several years I heard from a therapist, “I don’t do chaos” and one day I finally asked her what this meant. It makes sense that we try to stay away from drama and other unnecessary situations that exploit us but it seemed to me that there were situations of chaos in my life that I couldn’t identify until it was too late.
As I started to talk with Sharon Shipwash about chaos she was able to break it down for me very clearly. As we discussed the definition of chaos, the categories of chaos, and healthy responses to chaos so much clarity began forming in my mind that I felt lighter and somehow more free.
To put it simply, chaos is confusion. Anytime there is confusion there are typically indicators of chaos close at hand. Chaos can rear its head in the most common phrase we refer to as “drama”. Conflict, striking, excessive emotion or interaction can be symptoms of confusion and therefore chaos.
Sharon Shipwash started out by explaining to me that there are three circles in all of our lives. The first circle is our own circle labeled: Mine. In this circle are things that only we can control. These include: how we spend our time, our decisions, how we spend our money, our attitudes, our responses and emotions, etc. This circle is our area of jurisdiction and we want to operate from this circle in everything that we do. No one else can be responsible for the things in our circle and we shouldn’t let be them or we are entering chaos. We also shouldn’t attempt to step out of this circle and take responsibility for things outside of our jurisdiction either.
The second circle in our lives is the circle labeled: God’s Circle. God’s circle contains things that only God can control. These include: weather, traffic, provisional needs (i.e. clothing, food, shelter, money), laws of nature (i.e. gravity, tides, daylight), etc. The things that are in God’s jurisdiction are only things that He can change or rule over. It is a waste of time to enter chaos or a “911 state” about something that we cannot control.
“Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash?” Job 37:15
And lastly there is a circle labeled: Others. These are things that only other people can control. These include: their responses, their feelings, their words, reactions, choices, decisions, lifestyles, etc. Only other people can control their own lives and situations and so their circle will contain all of these things.
So what is chaos? Chaos, according to Sharon, is when you step out of your circle (MINE) and try to enter into God’s circle or the Others’ circle. When you step outside of your jurisdiction and attempting to either control a situation or react because of a situation that is not in your circle you are in chaos.
If I have planned a picnic for Saturday and when I wake up that day the weather is rainy and windy there is nothing I can do about it. If I start crying and becoming angry and upset and freaking out then I have left my circle and am dabbling in God’s circle. Only God can control the weather in this example and the proper response would be disappointment, prayer, and acceptance. No amount of reacting on my part will change the weather or allow for my picnic to proceed as planned. Only God can change the weather. The same would go for being stuck in traffic. As inconvenient as it may be we cannot control it and therefore shouldn’t allow it to disrupt us internally to a point of chaos. After all, no amount of screaming or honking will move the traffic any faster.
An example regarding the “Others” circle is if I am asked to do a favor for someone and it would require me to rearrange my whole day then I have the freedom to decline. When I do this and the other person becomes angry and begins arguing with me I have a choice. I can respond and engage in this argument or not. The healthy response is internal acknowledgement that I am not responsible for their anger, their feelings or their situation and I cannot control them. Choosing to engage in an angry argument which allows me to dabble in the “Other’s” circle to soothe things over for their feelings is entering chaos. Even allowing myself to become upset in such a situation is dabbling in chaos. It is giving power to someone else over my circle (my feelings).
This is a very simple tool that can be used in our relationships. When we understand our circle of jurisdiction and respond to things that happen around us from a place of peace (our own circle) we will quickly see chaos subside. For example, suddenly instead of my whole day being ruined because of a little rain at my picnic we simply move the party to the garage or a friend’s house and keep going. Or instead of engaging in a heated argument of defense about my choice to not rescue someone else I can simply walk away and let the other person deal with their own emotions however they choose while not being or feeling responsible. After all, I am not responsible for their feelings or choice to argue!
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
There have also been times where I have noticed this illustration in reversal. There have been times when someone has stepped outside of their own circle to control my feelings or manipulate decisions that were rightfully mine to make. Just having this tool in mind and being able to recognize the situation allowed me to take back my own mind, will, and emotions to operate from a place of peace.
“Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control” Proverbs 25:28
There are so many scenarios that can be conjured up in light of this illustration. Chaos is around us frequently and gravitates towards the web of codependency. Codependent people live in a state of chaos and it is wisdom to separate from this lifestyle. Clear boundaries are very enlightening because they allow us to get to know what is inside of us. We get to learn about our own personalities and learn what makes us tick. As we get to know our own selves through intimacy (in to ME see) our responses to chaos and things that involve the other circles will become second nature.
“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.” Psalm 139:1-2
Drama free? Chaos free? Codependency free? Remember, it is a journey of intimacy (in to ME see).
“He grants peace to your borders and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.” Psalm 147:14
Three other reads about codependency and relationships: