Psychologists tell us that backseat drivers, folks who find it necessary to give unnecessary, unwanted advice in the car and elsewhere, are really just expressing their own insecurities, lack of faith in others, or reaction to feeling powerless. Many of us have been the victims of such people, both in the car and in life, and it is no understatement to say that such people can be irritating, annoying, and even dangerous.
The expression “backseat driver” of course, has expanded beyond the automobile to include people who obsessively mistrust, find it necessary to control or judge, or think that they have all the right answers. Consequently, such people tend to feel that the one in perceived control of the situation, be it a driver, manager, or other, does not always know what he or she is doing.
The question is, are we God’s backseat drivers? Do we poke our nose in God’s Will, questioning where He is taking us and why?
A Little Faith Goes a Long Way
We can talk a good talk about trusting God with our affairs, problems, and concerns, but the proof is in the pudding, not the meddling. First, we need to humbly and sincerely ask God to help us. Second, we need to follow that request for help with true trust that God knows what He is doing in our lives. Lastly, we need to respectfully and obediently step out of the way and let Him do the driving.
Too many times, we pray asking for our way at our time, and write off the prayer as unanswered if we do not get our way. Absurd as it seems, how many times do we micromanage the Manager of the Universe? It is a contradiction to pray the Our Father asking God to follow our instructions, guidelines, and preferences to the tee.
Locus of Control
Locus of control is a psychological concept referring to where people feel that the control in their lives is found. This society promotes an internal locus of control, wherein folks feel empowered to guide their lives, as the sign of a healthy, responsible, and ultimately successful person. Conversely, this society paints having an external locus of control as being a weak, irresponsible, rationalizing loser who plays the role of victim all the time. Where society has this locus of control thing wrong is in how locus is used.
While it is true that using an external locus of control to play the victim, avoid responsibility, and blame everybody else for one’s issues is wrong and destructive, it is also true that using an internal locus of control to bully, manipulate, intimidate, judge, and project our insecurities on others can be just as harmful. Thus, how one uses an internal or external locus of control is more important than merely having one or the other. Using either one for selfish reasons is wrong, and using either one to bring glory to and obey God as well as love others is right.
Proactive vs. Reactive
Proactive people make things happen, and reactive people wait for things to happen to them. Needless to say, proactive types are normally associated with an internal locus of control and, conversely, reactive types are commonly viewed as tending to have an external locus of control.
Most of the time, being proactive is better than being reactive. However, there are times when we should step back, process what is happening, and then react to that, as opposed to just blindly jumping into every situation swinging like some crazed, self-perceived super hero.
Once again, society oversimplifies the relationship between locus of control and being proactive or reactive. It assumes that having an internal locus of control is akin to being proactive and, conversely, that having an external locus of control parallels with being reactive. While this may often be true, it is not always so and, beyond that, the good and bad of all of this is not so clear cut either.
Our Way and Sin
If you think about it, sin is really selfishly doing things our way regardless of what we should know that God wants. Claiming that we think God wants this or that, based purely on our own subjective, biased agenda, is playing make-believe morality. Likewise, pretending that we do not know what God wants, without making a concerted, sincere, and legitimate effort to discern that Will, is purposeful moral fraud.
The Key and Bridge
The key to all of this is to be purposeful in seeking and trying to actualize God’s Will as found in Scripture, Christ’s example and teachings, and our own constantly developing conscience. Once we are trying to function within that Divine Will, we must remain purposeful in carrying it through while becoming reactive in allowing God to speak to and through us.
God does not want us to be babbling moral idiots, spewing excuses or fawning mindless, oblivious adorations we do not feel. Neither does He want us to be insolent backseat drivers, bullying and questioning everything that happens in our lives like irritated accountants counting pegs or measuring perceived wins and losses on some ledger. Sincere prayer, honest reflection, and purposeful meditation and study often help us to balance the purpose, reaction, and locus of control in our lives.
Each of us is riding a life taxi to our ultimate destination. We can either ask God to achieve His Will through our proactive efforts and reactive trust, or we can rant and rave about where our taxi should be going and why. Ultimately, we must each ask ourselves how much we trust the Divine Driver of our life taxi and how sincerely we accept and want Him to take us home…His way.
2016 Gabriel Garnica