Throwing Away the Remote: A Lesson in Courage




Flipping the page on my Alaska Wildlife calendar to a new month I’m reminded of an encroaching anniversary.

I’ve lost track of how many years passed since my home break-in but even without a calendar on the wall I internally sense its date. My first clue? Something in my spirit hungers for more control. From serving eight years as a volunteer for women’s crisis centers I learned that need to control is a common denominator among survivors of violence. Not surprising when you consider that during the commission of many violent episodes/crimes, victims are generally at the mercy of the perpetrator.

For hours during my home break-in, I didn’t know if I would live or die. Wickedness taking the form of a human held me prisoner at gunpoint, my only recourse to endure his abuse or perish. In those dark hours, with control stripped from me, helplessness assailed me. Even for weeks following I was not in control. Fear gripped me, preventing me from living my life. Every noise startled me. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep without nightmares, couldn’t step outside the shelter of a friend’s home without trembling, couldn’t look people in the eye without crying, couldn’t watch tv newscasts without feeling sick. Aftermath of violence rendered me helplessness in nearly every aspect of life.

A lie took root: Absence of Control equals Helplessness. The remedy appeared obvious. The more I control my world the less helplessness I experience. In a misdirected attempt to avoid soul agony of helplessness & vulnerability, I convinced myself I must always be in control. Some control proved helpful like planning where I ventured out to and for how long, making sure to return home before dark. Other decisions seem random. I controlled the length of my hair, lopping it boy short for the first time in my life. I wore unattractive colors & frumpy clothing. I isolated myself from everyone, including friends. Many nights when insomnia owned me, I took refuge in television, not for my viewing pleasure but mechanically pressing a remote control every few minutes for hours until I drifted off exhausted. It seems so ridiculous now but at the time, I felt powerful with control literally at my fingertips.

Problem is my controlling spiraled out of control, ruining relationships, isolating me from people who love me. Control cost opportunities, rendered me a slave to lists and self-imposed rules of how life must be structured for my protection. Need to control narrowed my world, prohibiting me from venturing too far beyond the familiar and manageable. It chained me to routines, limited my circle of support, prevented me from trusting, robbed me of freedom, cheated me of JOY in living and loving. Ultimately, control consumed me.

What I needed wasn’t control but courage. Friends told me how brave I was for living through a violent attack. There’s nothing courageous about being a victim. Courage can only be found in choosing to move from victim to survivor, choosing to FULLY LIVE as a Survivor.

Control is the antithesis of courage. Despite my best efforts to appear brave, I realized bravery cannot emerge as long as I control everything because control roots and thrives in fear.

As long as I knew exact outcomes, hid behind routines, averted vulnerability by limiting my friendships, as long as I buried my heart and surfed through meaningless relationships like channel surfing with a remote control, true courage evaded me. I was, in fact, cowardly hiding behind a thin veil of false bravado destined to unravel in ugly ways.

True bravery emanates from staring down our fears, especially the fear of losing control. Courage emerges when everything in me shouts, “RUN! HIDE!” but I choose not to, when outcomes are shaky & threatening and I risk anyway, moving forward even in uncertainty but with resolve to conquer. “Courage”, as my dear friend Marshele Carter Waddell puts it, “is running up to the dark and taking one more step.”

The truth is, the more I tried to control the more I became controlled. If I honestly believed in the Sovereignty of God, I had to surrender control to Him. Surely the God who numbers the hairs on my head and watches over lowly sparrows cares about my struggles, right? {Matthew 10:29-30} But surrender seemed like giving up, admitting defeat, weakness. I fought until I nearly destroyed myself. The longer I avoided raising the white flag, the deeper fears bored into my soul and the emptier I became. No 12-step program delivered me, no magic formula to follow…just a simple prayer of relinquishment, a commitment to reach out to others for love & support and a long journey of intentionality to trust my Creator with details of my life every moment, every breath, every heartbeat.

Glance again at the calendar on my wall I commit the date of the break-in to the Lord. I won’t be controlled by fears in this season. My heart beats a little faster when I think of that night but I recognize fear sooner when it attempts to slip through cracks of my brokenness. I’m quicker to declare I will not let fear rule, not let it constrain me anew to channel-surfing-type control. Instead I choose to throw away the remote. I risk more. I forgive quicker. I laugh louder. I love deeper. I live freer… I live courageously.


DiAnna Steele is A Christian Speaker and Writer living in Colorado Springs , CO with her family and a 6-pound killer terrier. With more than 15 years speaking for Fortune 500 companies and major non-profits, DiAnna discovered her true joy is found in focusing her talents on Christian venues. She is available for speaking engagements and is a favorite for women’s events. It’s been 2 decades since she became a survivor of a violent crime. .

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