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Letting go

Mount Gardner trailOur culture is obsessed with pursuit, striving and pushing. We’re told all the time that we can achieve anything we want if we only work hard enough, persist long enough, push past the pain and ignore all obstacles in our way. Some of the time, this is true. There is a time and place for focused work, for believing in your dream and ignoring those who would say otherwise.

And yet: have you tried letting go? Caring deeply and yet stepping back from a situation knowing that this is someone else’s fight? When was the last time you loved someone with all your heart, and stood beside them while they made decisions that make no sense to you? Have you ever watched someone else struggle to learn something you already know but cannot transmit to them?

Achieving and pushing can be hard, but when you’re working toward an external goal there is something outside yourself to focus on. You work hard, with one eye on the grade, stats, or achievement indicators that will tell you when you’ve succeeded. There is validation, both from measurable outcomes and from the praise and admiration of those around you who can see what you’ve achieved.

Letting go is quiet. It’s silent, internal work. Its focus is within, and your achievement indicators are available to nobody but yourself.  It’s hard to gauge if it’s OK to trust, if it’s the right time to let go, or whether you would be better served by sticking to your guns and fighting. But it’s work all the same. It can be incredibly hard to swallow your pride, set aside your ego and put someone else’s needs ahead of your own desire to be right. Abandoning our expectations of how something was supposed to go can be painful. There is a great deal of skill involved in offering love and resources without taking control of someone else’s situation, and without letting them control yours.

This is the work we do when we’re caring for an alcoholic relative, or a spouse who’s made a questionable friendship, or a self-directed child who wants to be in charge of their own learning. This is trust: releasing other people from the clutches of our responsibility. We can strive and push for results when the work is our own. But when it’s someone else’s life and their choices? Sometimes we’ve just got to let go and trust that the truth will come to the one we love.


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