Turtle Eggs—And the Perils of Controlling

By Greg Baer M.D.

February 1, 2011

Years ago, as my children and I were planting some bushes in the backyard late one afternoon, we uncovered a handful of turtle eggs. One of them had just hatched, and we were excited at the prospect of seeing the rest do the same. We lightly covered them back up with a thin layer of dirt, planning to check on them the next day.

The next morning, however, my daughter, Janette, came to me in tears to share a sad story. After we had finished working the day before, she had taken the eggs from the ground and put them directly under an incandescent lamp in her room, "so they would be warm." When she checked them the next morning, they were shriveled up and ruined.

Although Janette was "trying to help," she learned that there's a reason that turtles bury their eggs in cool, moist dirt. Those are the conditions needed by the eggs for proper development and hatching. Innocently, she thought it would be better to make the eggs warm and dry, but with her good intentions, she killed them.

Nearly all of us engage in similar behaviors with friends, spouses, children, and others. We try to change them—or control things around them—in ways we think would be good for them, but very often we're wrong. We attempt to give people advice they cannot hear. We try to make people become what they cannot be. We try to control people in ways that cause harm to them and to our relationships with them. We fail to realize that people need our unconditional love more than anything else we might offer.

The most consistent problem I see in relationships—between marriage partners, between parents and children, and so on—is the expectations each partner has of the other. We want our partners to change in ways that suit us, often in ways that are simply impossible for them. In the process, we kill our relationships, just as Janette killed the turtle eggs by wanting them to hatch in a way that suited her.

We need to have faith that people don't need us to control them. We need faith in the power of loving. From time to time, we may offer our counsel or even our assistance, but rarely do we need to intrude and control the behavior of anyone. When we're sufficiently unconditionally loved ourselves, we don't need other people to change in order to make us happy. We can accept them as they are and watch the miracle of people developing and hatching into the beautiful creatures they are.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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