External Locus of Control. The Challenge and Opportunity of the Gospel

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Recently I visited some children and their families in a town far away from where I live.

The place I visited shall remain nameless. Suffice to say it is an environment characterised by helplessness and hopelessness. Drugs and alcohol are in abundance. Aggression, resentment, fear. Survival requires a form of cultural oppositional defiance – the ability to be up for a fight. Kids take themselves home from school early…. because they want to. Kids wander around at night… because they can. Anxiety and freedom mixes together.

Alcohol leads to disinhibition. Disinhibition leads to violence. Violence leads to Traumatic brain injuries.

The situation is chronic, serious and complex.

When I was there, I was struck by the externalisation of the problem. To have an external locus of control means that you blame everyone else for your situation. It renders you free from guilt and absolutely powerless at the same time.

In The Matrix, Neo gets offered a pill. If he takes the red pill, he will have to admit to the painful reality within and around him. If he takes the blue pill, he will live in blissful ignorance.

Blissful ignorance comes to those who admit they don’t have a problem. Guilt is anaesthetised by the externalisation of control. “It isn’t my fault…. I’d be fine if it wasn’t for________” (insert “parent”, “government”, “school”, “partner” or whatever other party other than the person who is speaking the sentence).

We all need the red pill. The bitter reality that might come to many of us is that we maintain the problem when we externalise the responsibility. It is NOT true that drugs and alcohol or other people are exclusively to blame. When we blame others we no longer feel guilty, and this is good for us but when we externalise like this we make the admission that we can do nothing about our situation. When we blame others, we render ourselves powerless. When we are powerless there is no hope. When we feel hopelessness, we are at risk of depression and suicide.

This is why the ‘red pill’ of the gospel gives us such hope. It is bitter to the core. It brings you into a reality that you haven’t seen, and you are brought to that place at the foot of the cross where you say “it is all my fault… I’m sorry”. This sort of contrition brings us so much hope.

I was talking to a boy who got himself into a whole lot of trouble for violence. I asked him “Who needs to change do you think?” He looked up to me and said “I do”. My Heart welled up with hope and respect. He took the red pill.

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