Tag Archives: out of control


Africa removes any last illusion of control in your life. The fact that one can arise in the morning, make and drink their coffee in a matter of 15 minutes, get in a car and arrive at the office in 20 minutes (or an hour for real city dwellers…) and successfully go to the bank, type AND print the report for your boss, and pick up groceries before 5 pm, gives Westerners the false sense of having control over their lives.  Here, my notion of productivity has come to the belief that sending one e-mail and connecting with a contact on the phone to set up a future in-person meeting constitutes a successful day.  I cannot pretend to control my activities here.

Which is a more honest way of living anyway.  When we think we are in-control, things like a job loss, or relationship upheaval, or violent storm completely cripple our lives.  Knowing I cannot do anything about what just happened to me makes whatever it was a little easier to bear.

This is also a necessary attitude in dealing with people around us.

All I can control is my response.  All I can control is what I say.  I cannot control how the other person receives it.  And I cannot control what the other person will do following said reception.  The best I can do is say what is on my heart and then react according to the reaction.

After 7 months, what do I think about the depth and honesty of reconciliation here?  I have my theories, but I cannot honestly know.  That is between the individuals involved.  And in a polite society that would rather look pretty and bury the anger, perfection is perhaps not here yet.

However, honest reconciliation is all about the individual heart.  Carrying the guilt or anger towards another can dominate our every thought, and dictate our emotions.  Offering honest forgiveness or repentance primarily serves to set our hearts free.  Emmanuel Kolini, Archbishop of Rwanda, Retired, said that reconciliation is necessary.  And an element of that does involve a superficial getting along with one another so that life can continue.  Alternatively, true healing comes from setting your own hear free.  Kolini said it does not matter if the other party does not want to accept your heart.  As long as you lay it bear and state what is honestly happening, then you’ve set yourself free.  It is up to the other to choose that freedom as well.

But we cannot control the other.  We can only control ourselves.

So is it deep, and honest and true here?  For some certainly.  And for others, it is up to them to take the offering.  But no one else can force that.

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Letting Go

There are several ways to be hurt by another.

There are several ways to hurt another.

And both options have elements you can control and elements you have to accept.

I have too often seen the necessity of acceptance here in Rwanda.

Muzungus come in and out of Kigali like middle-schoolers at the mall.  This is the place to be.  Kids still in university come “to do research” over the summer.  Kids newly graduated come out for their first job in hopes that one in a developing country will be more meaningful than joining their peers as office assistants in the U.S. (yeah, yeah, yeah I’m on one of them too…) Middle-aged providers who’ve lost their jobs (thank you U.S. economy) are here as “missionaries” serving God in one of the thousands of churches/schools/orphanages here. And of course the city is littered with U.N. Tribunal Officials, WFP, World Bank, and a myriad of other IGO/NGO do-gooders.  Plus all the diplomatic staff… I digress.  The point is, the poor Rwandans have to deal with all kinds of high and mighty white people who know what is best and nurse their attitudes of righteous anger at whatever injustice they perceive to be happening at the moment. This means that plenty of Rwandans come into the line of fire of some angry white person who can’t take the culture, the food, the injustice, or whatever the hell it is they are mad at.

Accusations are thrown. Threats are made. And excuses are attempted. But when someone throws an accusation, he cannot be wrong. So the poor person on the other side can either defend his ego and control of the situation, or he can accept the accusation and go on with his day.

An attitude that is the unfortunate remnant of years of living “beneath” another person (the white colonizers, yes.)

However, it is also a skill that comes in real handy for avoiding unnecessary conflict. Conflict can often be very helpful.  Without it, there is no reason to challenge ourselves and grow.  However, when it is a conflict of wills, someone has to be a clear winner.  Under it all, the person who swallows his pride and says ‘yeah it’s my fault’ is the winner.

So here’s to all of you I have watched stand down in a conflict of wills. (Especially impressive because the culture here reeks of me-first: making any kind of commute an absolute joy.) Because after all, what do we get for being “right”, or being first anyway? Even after all the pushing and shoving, we all have to wait on the bus for the driver to decide to go.

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