Burned Hands & Letting Go

God’s been teaching me some hard lessons over the last year. Actually, He’s probably been trying to teach me for a lot longer than that—it’s that I’m just now starting to pay attention…just now starting to learn about letting go.

I’ll admit, that sounds boring, doesn’t it? I almost yawned as I typed it. “Letting go.” It’s become a cliché.

But living it out is so much more than a feel-good motivational meme.

It’s profound and painful and utterly life-changing.

There are two parts to this Letting Go Lesson, and today I’ll focus on the first. It’s about how so much of our unhappiness is because we are entirely mixed up about what we can and can’t control. We are desperate to control things (and people) that we can’t, and often don’t want to take control of what we should.

I want to control everything. Everything. From the other drivers on the road, to how fast the line at Walmart moves, to how my husband behaves. Does that sound familiar to anyone else? I cling to the idea that all these things and people should be a certain way. And perhaps sometimes I’m right. I mean, yeah, I think we can all agree that many people should be more considerate.

Reality check: they aren’t.

I always kept coming back to the fact that I don’t want to accept reality because it should be different, and it feels like accepting = okaying it. It doesn’t. It means that I finally realize keeping a death grip on my shoulds comes at a cost. Wanting to control things we can’t will inevitably lead to feeling angry, depressed, indignant, impatient, helpless…Sadly, being mad doesn’t actually change any of the things we’re mad about, it just spoils our happiness.

This pattern is worse than pointless. It’s like holding onto a hot coal wishing you could throw it at something or someone because you think it’s deserved. Can you see how whether it’s deserved or not is irrelevant? Because everything will go on as usual while you are standing there getting burned.

What I can control is me. And yet that’s the thing I don’t want to control. I’d rather pass the buck. I’d rather say I’m the victim of crappy events and can’t help being unhappy about it. But even when I have no say in someone else’s behavior or how something turns out, I do have a say in a how I react. I can choose to be angry or I can choose to let go.  I can decide to drop the coal…not because I’m necessarily wrong in thinking that things should be a certain way, but simply because I don’t want any more third-degree burns.

So I’m learning to let go. Easier said than done, though, right? Stay tuned…next post I’ll talk about how I’m actually doing it!

Are you holding onto hot coals? What would your life be like if you were able to start letting go?


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