These are two words that we often put together, hoping to be able to accomplish their meaning, but seldom finding the ability to even define what they mean, much less master their intent. There are multiple ways in which we use this phrase, from the Language of Letting Go to Let Go and Let God, but what does “letting go” really mean? And, if it really is something positive, how do we accomplish this?
I’ve been struggling with this one, and even as I write this I’m figuring it out, so please disregard any discontinuity in these paragraphs. This is pretty much just my mind thinking and writing as it goes, with no rough draft ☺
I find the phrase “letting go” to be kind of daunting. It seems to insinuate a relinquishing of control, and I HATE giving up control! Of course I do. I’m human. No human wants to give up control. That would be counterintuitive and most likely jeopardize our survival. We’re hard-wired to hate the very idea of surrender. Most people stop here when they think of defining the phrase “letting go” – then wonder why they can’t seem to get it right. “Why can’t I just let go?” “Just let go and let God.” “Just…” as if it were “just” that simple! Oh sure, that’s all there is to it, huh? Just completely ignoring all of my instincts and giving up? Sure, no problem! Why do we think that this should be simple? Or even remotely possible? I’ll not touch on the Biblical nature of this right now, but let it be known that I AM taking Biblical teachings into consideration here, and I see no support for this view, either in scripture or in nature.
So what are the other meanings to this phrase? What other factors come into play? You see, the very idea of “letting go” is ambiguous. On the one hand, it means giving up control, yet on the other hand, it may mean taking back control as well. How is that possible? Well, if one “lets go” of the constraints which define him and contain him, he can find freedom, which, in itself, is a form of self-control. I find it easier to incorporate this aspect into the definition of “letting go,” for a number of reasons, both spiritual and practical. Again, I’ll leave the theology out of this for now, but sum up by saying that I find more support for this view than for the former. Practically, however, this seems to be the only true way of “letting go” of anything. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s simple. Letting go of our chains – especially those which we forged ourselves – can be almost as difficult as self-sacrifice. Actually, in a way, it IS a form of self-sacrifice. Even our fears define us, and without them, oppressive though they are, we are never quite the same.
As I said, I have been struggling with this concept lately. I am defined by a number of traits, both positive and negative. I don’t like to be one of those people who refuses to change and says, “Oh well, that’s just how I am.” I think that’s selfish, even though I know we all do it to some extent. Being able to see our own faults takes a great deal of discipline and mental contortionism; changing them takes nothing short of astral projection! Stepping outside oneself is essential if one is to even BEGIN on this road. And unfortunately, looking at ourselves is usually not pretty. I’m reminded of the swamp of sadness in The Neverending Story. It is easy to allow it to overtake you. If you decide to take a good, hard look at yourself without having a worth-while goal, you may get lost in what you see, and some people never make it out.
So on that happy note…what is our goal? How can we keep our heads above the water? Optimism helps, but this is something that usually just falls on one person or another, so we can’t all rely on that. Perhaps redefinition of self is the goal. It’s a big task, no doubt, but definitely not as scary as losing oneself altogether. When you are willing to redefine yourself, you don’t have to “lose” anything. You just gain more parts, really. Perhaps you are an angry person. You don’t need to lose that part – you simply gain the ability to control it and work with/through it. If you are a genuinely angry person, you may always be an angry person, but you can also be a self-controlled person, and that may make the difference. Afraid of crowds? So maybe you’ll always be somewhat afraid of crowds, but you can add the ability to deal with that fear. Of course, there are things that will have to be “let go” in the very real sense, but it’s easier to take it step by step.
So I’m not even remotely close to having this down yet, but I’ve been working on it. I have a lot of things that I’ve been needing to “let go” of. For one, I am a very angry, impatient person. Even writing that makes me angry! And honestly, I’m surprised I’ve had the patience to write this much! Now I don’t claim expertise in this of course. Out of 100 times a day that I need to “let go”, I probably manage to let go maybe 20 times. But who knows…tomorrow it may be 21 ☺ The point is, it’s a work in progress. There are ways to make the process easier, though. I’ll try to touch on a few of them that I’ve found.
First of all, watch your language. “I can’t”, “I have to”, “I can’t stand” – these all need to leave your vocabulary at once. Even “I am” statements need to be curbed. These all convey a sense of permanence to our own pitiful plight that sends us into the old habit of repeating the same mistakes, then defining ourselves by them. “I can’t stand it when the towels don’t match,” can become, “I prefer the towels to match.” The second one is much easier to deal with, don’t you think? Suddenly it’s just a “preference,” rather than an absolute that MUST be adhered to in order for you to keep your identity. Even the statement that I made earlier, “I am a very angry, impatient person,” can be changed to something like, “I tend to get angry and lose my patience easily.” Ahh, that feels much better, and didn’t make me angry! I can deal with “tend to.” “I am,” on the other hand, is so dreadfully permanent and doesn’t offer much hope for change. It’s amazing what changing a few words in our own vocabulary will do!
Second, please fail. Failing is ok. It doesn’t mean you have to start over. Just try again next time. And if need be, apologize, to whomever your failure may have affected. This is difficult for a lot of people, but with practice, it will get easier. And trust me, you’ll have plenty of practice!
Third, let go by holding on. Huh? Yeah, seriously. You have some tricks up your sleeve. When you find one that works, take note, and use it often. Hold on to that bag of tricks, and pat yourself on the back when you remember to use them. Share your success with others as well. It’s ok to brag a little. You’re not being overly-prideful. You’re simply being happy at your own little victories. Share the joy, and keep ‘em coming!
I know I’ve got more, but honestly, if you’ve read this far, I commend you. I wouldn’t have! Maybe I’ll put this in my book someday, if I ever finish it. It will be in a chapter entitled, “How Not to Screw Up Constantly,” or “Tricking Yourself into Not Being Yourself,” or some other cleverly-worded, eye-catching title that makes people think, “Hmm, how profound,” which is just another way of saying, “I have no idea what the hell that is supposed to mean.”