Already we’ve had numerous responses to the topic of spiritual freedom. And one phrase that has come up repeatedly is “letting go.” So let’s explore what that means.
Letting go is a form of faith, really. When I let go of a worry, a fear, or even a responsibility, I trust that everything isn’t up to me, that the planet will stay on its course even if I step aside in some way. Wise people understand that anxiety generally doesn’t change a situation—it merely makes the situation harder to bear. Wise people also know that every person is crucially important to the world—but nobody is indispensable. This can be hard to believe when you are primary caregiver for a child or an elderly relative who is sick. But even as we care for others, we do them and ourselves a greater service by not clinging too tightly to our role. There’s a chance the caregiver will get ill or die. There’s always a chance that a situation will fall apart completely before any apparent healing occurs or before real help comes.
So, in a way, letting go is a way of acknowledging that things do fall apart. We fall apart, and so do our families. Our work situations fall apart; an entire country falls apart under enough stress and attack. Most of the time, the falling apart cannot be prevented. So what are we supposed to do?
I don’t have much authority to write about this, because my own life has been pretty safe and secure. But in watching situations around the world, and in reading about human history and where saints fit into it, I’ve come to believe that there is always some way to express love. Neighbors help one another find possessions, pets, food, and water after a tornado or flood. People trapped on an upper floor in the World Trade Center huddle together to comfort one another and pray moments before they die. A person sits with a friend—or stranger—in hospice care, just to be there, silent and gentle. The parent makes a place for the errant son or daughter who returns home devastated either by unwise personal choices or by unavoidable circumstances. That same parent must let go of the urge to lecture or to try to fix every problem the child has. The hospice worker must let go of the need to save a person from death.
In fact, we have numerous opportunities to let go, because the world hurts in so many ways, and often we cannot mend what hurts but only be present to the people affected by it.
Look at your life this week, and identify situations in which you can let go while continuing to love in some way, however small.