Corage: Light the Candle

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Light from the Candle isn’t just about illuminating darkness, it’s about letting go of the myth of control, and gaining control through the process.

By Sally Eames

“Yet it is better to light the candle than to curse the darkness.”
William Lonsdale Watkinson

As I wrote on my website the other day, control is an illusion, an attempt to hold onto the known. It’s not really surprising we would try to control our lives; it’s terrifying to admit we don’t actually know what will happen at any given point (though with thought and experience we can make educated guesses). It’s also pretty scary to face up to the knowledge we are powerless against many things: the results of other people’s stupid decisions, natural disasters, disease, to name a few.

Lighting CandlesStill, though, we try to control for everything. We get jobs that give us health insurance and help us build savings accounts, in case something should happen. We build retirement accounts and portfolios so we can hopefully take care of ourselves once we are no longer working. We do everything we can to protect our children from hurt—both mental and physical. Sometimes we try to control other people’s behaviors to keep ourselves from emotional hurt.

I once heard a corporate manager say to new staff members, “I see my job as protecting everyone in this room,” and I thought, “Well, now everything makes sense.” Because the workings of the office were completely hamstrung by that manager’s need to control every document and piece of paper that went through their department. And still things went wrong, projects had issues or were delayed, supplies arrived late, orders got mixed up, because this is an imperfect world, and humans are an imperfect species, and you simply cannot control for everything.

Now, that manager had a good heart and really was doing what was perceived to be best for everyone on the team. The problem was simply that the manager was operating from a place of fear instead of one of empowerment.

That’s the issue in a nutshell; the desire to control comes from a place of fear. Working to control something is simply about trying to minimize the potential pain of the future. But let me share One True Thing with you: Regardless of what you do, there is no way to live a pain-free life. Everyone dies. Everything changes. We all suffer losses of one kind or another. Pain is inevitable, no matter how hard we try to block it off by building walls and throwing money at it.

You know what helps, though? Building community. Expressing gratitude. Letting go of the illusion that you have control over anything but your own thoughts and actions. Choosing to live your life not from a place of fear, but one of empowerment.

Let me give you an example of how that last one works. Recently, a client was talking about painful it was to stand out as much as they do in their community. “I don’t fit in,” is a hard and hurtful place to be, and it’s what they’ve been experiencing for some time. “How else can you look at that,” I asked. “How can you turn that around so that rather than being a source of pain, it’s a statement of empowerment? What does not fitting in give you?”

“Oh,” said the client, “I like that.” They got quiet for a bit. And then they said, “I get to choose my path.” It was such a powerful statement that I almost cried from the beauty of it.

So what happened there? My client shifted from a place of feeling of being at the mercy of the opinions of others something over which none of us have no control to the place where the life is entirely up to them. Now, there is ALL KINDS of control there. You don’t need to try to affect what other people think and my client has a life and a direction to choose and explore. How exciting is THAT?

That’s not to say that there won’t still be painful moments of rejection, of non-acceptance for my client. Not everybody is going to shift with them. Horrible, petty, controlling people will still be horrible, petty and controlling. But those people are acting from their own places of fear, and my client now realizes that has nothing to do with them. That kind of thing is a lot easier to let go of, once you get that it’s not about you.

In other words, this client has found it easier to light the candle rather than cursing the darkness. It’s still dark, there’s still a lot out there they have no control over at all. But they are taking charge of what they can affect, and they are making that light shine.

How can you rewrite a statement of pain or fear you’ve been thinking was “truth” to make it one of empowerment?

What fears are you carrying that are not your own?

What can you release and say good-bye to because it’s not about you?

Sally Eames, CPCC, ACC operates Corage Coaching. She is a Certified Professional Co-Active coach and a graduate of the Coaches Training Institute. She is also an International Coach Federation Associate Certified Coach. For the full text of this column, please visit her blog. For more information on her work as a Co-active coach, please visit her site at


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