On Letting Go

In my previous post I wrote about forgiveness, or rather, letting go of the pain when you have been wronged. Letting go is so counter to what we have been taught: You are in control of your life! Achieve your full potential! Make something happen!

But the reality is actually quite different and believing we can control everything causes us so much needless pain. Yes, I can hear protesting! Please, let me explain.

First, let’s clarify some things about the previous post on forgiveness. Letting go means you quit telling yourself the story about how you were wronged. It means you LET GO of defining yourself by external circumstances. You let go of letting other people and their actions define you. Yes, I could define myself by my abuse, but that would be allowing the abusers to say who I am- a victim. But am I? Really? No, I am not, and neither are you!

Abusive/horrible behavior is NOT about the person to whom it is directed; it’s really about the abuser. And what does it say? Simply that the abusive person hates themselves SO much that they cannot or will not slow down enough to be honest with themselves, feel the pain inside that is generating their horrible behavior and do something loving to heal themselves. In short, when someone does something horrible to you, IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. I liken it to being in a car wreck. For the majority of people it is caused by something utterly outside their own control. Think of encounters with painful people as “car wrecks.” And of course, now you can see why, if you live/work in an environment full of “car wrecks”, that it becomes really important to find a way to protect yourself or just get out. You can’t fix them. You can’t control them. Further, it’s not your responsibility! In short, their abusive behavior defines THEM and you define YOU. Let go of the story of your pain unless you want to be the pain. What do you want? Choose that instead.

“But Kathryn, you don’t know what has happened to me.” I understand. Really, I do. I have had just about every awful thing you can imagine happen to me. I have been there and lived it. If this process sounds too difficult where you are right now, that’s ok! Just go back to the post on forgiveness. Keep honoring your feelings until they subside….and they will. If your abuse has been so bad that you can’t bear to think about it, please get a compassionate therapist to help you walk through the pain so you can have relief. You deserve to be happy and loved. Remember, awful behavior directed at/done to you is not about you. You are not the abuse. You are not the pain. Let go of the story and move on.

Is letting go helpful for other applications? Glad you asked. 🙂

In our goal-oriented/production-focused society we get the message drilled into us from childhood that you are your accomplishments. And the corollary is that the more money you make, the more accomplished and valuable you must be. Once again, it’s that old trap of defining ourselves by our external circumstances. Of course it feels great to accomplish your goals, be it knitting a sweater, designing a new program, completing a report for work, whatever; but it’s a trap to think the sweater/program/report is who we are. It is an expression of who we are and as such, everybody’s contributions to this world are- in a manner of speaking- sacred. Yes, some contributions are in short supply and in our economic system, we assign value to our individual contributions through money. Next thing you know…oops! We start assuming people are more or less valuable depending on money (external circumstances.) We start believing WE (and others) are more or less valuable depending on the value society places on the contribution. Think of the messes this kind of thinking has caused! CEOs getting paid thousands of times more than the lowest paid workers in their firm. Wealthy people getting the best health care while disabled people live under bridges. (Insert your own examples here!) Now don’t be getting your panties all in a twist saying I am some kind of Communist/etc. ALL I’m saying is that if you believe that we are here as a Spark of the Divine, then how can we possibly justify abusing/neglecting ourselves and our fellow man? I am not saying we should do for other what they can do for themselves as that would be disrespectful; I am saying we need to evaluate HOW we value ourselves and others. I am saying that for peace-of-mind and for peace, letting go of external measures of worth is directly related to loving yourself and others.

How about letting go of controlling the future? Actually, this one makes me laugh because I am *such* an expert on trying to control the future. Guess what? It doesn’t work. Oh, I have tried and you are most welcome to give it a shot, but you know that saying,”Life is what happens when you make plans”? Yeah. That. You are just going to drive yourself and everyone around you crazy. I know, I know…. “But how will anything ever get done/accomplished/achieved?” Good question! How about trying this instead? Listen to your heart, your gut. What do you really love? Do that. Do it every day. Do it with all your heart and with all your joy. Do it for 5 years and look back and tell me what you have accomplished. A LOT MORE than if you had some fancy plan, I’m betting. Look at Julia Child. She really didn’t do much with her life until she encountered her real joy- food. She tried many things but was a failure or simply quit. By all external circumstances she was a failure…until she encountered her passion at the age of 32. Did you know it took her 8 years to write her classic tome, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”? She though it would take a couple of months! Well, I guess that makes her a failure as she missed her goal. NOT. The lesson here is to get yourself a passion (or rather acknowledge the passion deep inside you) and a broad outline and then do what you love every single day. It’s the difference between being led by your passion and dragging yourself (come Hell or high water) to your goal. Letting go of judging yourself against external standards and then lovingly acknowledging your passion is the very best way to be happy and make a meaningful contribution to this world. There are no guarantees that you will be rich or famous, but let’s get real: how many people are actually rich and famous? I’d rather be happy! No one dies wishing they had more money! They all wish they had followed their dreams, loved more, spent more time with their family. Let go of trying to control anything other than living an authentic life. I wish I had known this before I moved half-way across the country to learn a job that I didn’t like-  for the money- that turned into a series of the most incredible series of trainwreck circumstances ever. The good part was, out of sheer exasperation, I finally let myself believe in my passion and follow it wholeheartedly. I have never been happier. Don’t do what I did. Save yourself the money, heartache, sleepless nights. Just let go and just go follow your heart from the get-go.

How about letting go of the need to be right? Ha! Now here’s a fun trap…. if you consider being caught in Dante’s Seventh-Level-of-Hell fun. Someone once said to me that I could either be happy or be right. Which was more important? I have to admit that at the time I had to carefully consider because I wanted so badly to be right. Ok, let’s be really honest- I just wanted to win! This trap is closely linked to forgiveness because deep inside we all want Justice. Who doesn’t want to see the scales of justice balanced? Payment made? Restitution required and “right order” restored? The following story is really sad and it taught me a powerful lesson. Years ago in the city in which I used to live, a couple lost their daughter. If I remember correctly, she was around 9 or 10 years old and was abducted, raped and murdered. It was the worst case scenario for a parent. Truly heartbreaking. The murderer was quickly caught and convicted. The surprise was when it came to the penalty phase of the trial. The parents of the murdered child pled for the court to spare the life of the man who murdered their daughter. I wasn’t the only person who was stunned. Why? How? WTF? They simply and quietly explained that killing this man would not bring their daughter back and nothing would be accomplished by taking his life in addition to their daughter’s life. They knew their daughter’s killer was wrong/they were right, but killing him too wasn’t going to restore their happiness. To be fair, even though they did all the “right” things to grieve and they would always have pain over their loss…. they also knew that being right wasn’t going to restore their joy in life. When they were interviewed, they explained that they were letting go so they could eventually find some small measure of inner peace. This story made such a huge impact on me. It seemed unfathomable that they could even consider letting go of the need to punish but they stated emphatically that their inner peace would not be restored by punishment; only by letting go. After that incident I began to measure my need to be right against what it was costing me….and I realized that winning often came at a steep price. Please note that I am not saying that one should not take care of themselves and this is not an excuse to let people walk all over you. All I am saying is before you engage in “battle”, ask yourself if this is the hill you want to die on. Ask yourself if it really (really) matters. If you are like me, you might find that as long as I know the truth, that is enough. I don’t need to convince the Universe to take my point of view. In the end, just “letting it go” really becomes such an incredible freedom.


Here’s hoping this helps you find more joy in YOUR daily life and that a verdant space is widening inside your soul.


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