When I was finishing up my sophomore year of college, I had a psychology professor that enjoyed saying things that he thought the Christians in the room would hate. One day, we began discussing the internal versus external locus of control. He looked around the class and firmly told us that healthy people relied on the internal locus of control, but Christians were helpless people who only have the external locus of control.
You see, simplifying, the locus of control is how much power you feel you have over what happens in your life. Someone who has the internal locus of control feels that they have influence over what happens to them, that they can control some aspects of their lives. Those who have the external locus of control feel that their life isn’t in their own hands, and everything is caused and determined by an outside power.
I would disagree with my psych professor in his assessment that Christians have simply the external locus of control.
I’d say that we use both.
You see, his assessment was right in that we all definitely have the external locus of control. In order to follow Christ, it requires acknowledgement that our salvation, the very events of our lives, are, indeed, out of our control. It requires surrender, willingness to follow. God, as the most mighty One that we answer to, does have his hand and influence on much of our lives.
Yet, as Christians, we’re not called to simply sit back and say, “God’s got this,” or, my favorite of the corny Christian Pinterest lines, “Let go and let God.” No, God calls us to PURSUE him. We, with strength given by the Holy Spirit, are called to fight sin, to make wise choices, and to choose growth. We have responsibilities in our lives, and we are called to be diligent.
So, Christians stand outside of a singular locus of control. We’re a paradox. As you move through life, remember that God has control and influence over your life; you’re not called to save yourself and you can’t do life by yourself. On the other hand, you are also called to move toward God, to choose to thrive and not just survive; you pursue Christ and make choices for your life.
Balance in the middle.
3 thoughts on “Christianity and the Locus of Control Paradox”
I love this article! You should write a book!
I appreciate your thoughts on this. I am also a Christian and a student of psychology and was researching this very topic. If you’d happen to be aware of any additional resources of this topic that you can direct me to, that would be appreciated 🙂
when looking for my own paper I found your locus of control paradox – well said! Mine is at http://members.ozemail.com.au/~liznlach/Locus_of_Control.htm My main website is http://www.chooselifeaustralia.org.au/ Blessings!