“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”
I once heard the saying that a baby is born with its fists clinched tight, holding on to everything in life. When we die, we’re laid in the casket with our hands outstretched, letting go of everything in life. And, life is the process of learning how to let go. I think this rings true.
We have such an aversion to letting things go. Even when we rationally know that we can’t change a situation, we hold on to it. Even when we know that ruminating, analyzing, replaying, or gnashing our teeth about a thing won’t change it, we refuse to let it go. Even when others tell us that it’s killing us, we hold on.
We seem to have the belief that continuing to think about a past negative event, a mistake, a slight or a wrong treatment, will somehow make it go away. We hold on to our anger, as if being angry will magically fix the problem. Or, when dealing with our own mistakes, we seem to believe that holding on to our guilt or shame is going to help. We continue to replay the unfortunate action, as if one more review will change the outcome. It never does.
It all comes down to the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr:
“Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
Letting go and accepting is a choice, but it has to be a daily choice. We first make the rational decision to let a situation go. We recognize that our only pathway to peace is to let go. We realize that holding on is not helping the situation, but only hurting us. We then have to remind ourselves of our decision, whenever we find ourselves obsessing about the event again.
Again, it is difficult to let go, but well worth the effort. A variation of Neibuhr’s prayer might be, “Lord grant me the ability to accept the things I cannot change, so that I can finally experience serenity.”