Let it go; forgive and give life.

L is for Let-it-go

Let it go; forgive and give life.
“Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life.” – George MacDonald


This is part of a series of an alphabet of help for living well, despite everything:

L is for Let-it-go!

I’ve been stepped on. Bruised. Trounced. Crushed.
What’s my initial, instinctive, human response? I’m shocked– how could they?  I’m in attack mode– those nasty blankety-blanks, I’m gonna show them why they are so wrong. I relive what they did to me. I scheme how to make them understand– they hurt me. I invent a multitude of creative punishments to make them pay. Meanwhile, the inconsiderate, rude, cruel, stupid things they did are making me more and more miserable.
Imagine dipping a string into molten wax, adding layer upon layer, growing a bigger and bigger candle.
There’s something satisfying about this process of dipping and accumulating, isn’t there?
But what if this candle is made from a wax called bitterness?
Here’s what I make myself do, when I need to let it go:

  • Release my anger with a pounding good walk or run, deliberately shedding sweat and sometimes tears. If it’s a deep pain, I write out my hurt, my shock, my frustration and anger. Occasionally while writing I might bawl my eyes out. Then I do something dramatic like rip the paper to shreds or I burn it (this is effectively satisfying; try it). And then I take another pounding good walk.
  • Cool down and grow physically calmer by doing breathing exercises (see B is for breath).
  • Remind myself that the person who hurt me is not in control of my life or my happiness. I am.
  • Try to find compassion for the person who hurt me. This isn’t complicated. Once I muster a wholehearted conviction that there must be compassion within me, I don’t have to go looking for it, compassion comes to me. (It’s amazing; try it.)
  • Choose to forgive. This is a process–if my pain is small, the process is short and I only have to forgive seven times or so to coax my misery into burning out like a birthday candle at the end of its wax. If my pain is thick (picture a huge pillar candle built from years’ of resentments), it’s going to take much longer. I’ll need to forgive and forgive, 70 times 7 or more.

To forgive is to put a flame to the candle of resentment; I will burn it (keep forgiving) until it burns itself down to nothing.

In the center of forgiveness we find what we must do; we must give up resentment.

Of course wisdom tells us that resentment is not the only thing we must relinquish in the quest for peace and contentment.
Share with us, my dear wise friends. What are you learning not to keep, and how do you intend to let it go?

29 thoughts on “L is for Let-it-go”

  1. Since my son’s car accident, in which her daughter was injured but has now fully recovered, my sister-in-law doesn’t want anything to do with me. I have had to let her go.

    1. Deep sigh. That’s a challenge… My nephew just started driving and I am amazed (all over again) at how risk-filled driving actually is. And how trusting (mostly of total strangers) all of us have to be to get behind the wheel and get on the road — confident/hopeful that everyone else will stay in their lanes, will obey the traffic rules, will not lose their concentration due to texting, etc. I hope that your family rift will heal over time, as your niece has thankfully been able to do.

    2. That’s sad. Life is full of those kinds of breaks, but they never fail to break my heart.
      I hope your able to not take her anger and the resulting rejection of you, personally. Maybe, in time, she’ll be able to let go of it. Meanwhile, the only thing you can do is let her go.

    1. Thanks, Richard. It really was, for me, all about learning to make myself do what’s very difficult for me to do. But not doing it (not forgiving) is extremely unhealthy for me. Emotional pain increases my physical pain. I’m sure that’s true for everyone but it’s magnified in me. I truly believe we are integrated beings, that mind and body –and spirit– are intertwined in us, and therefore the mental/spiritual effects the physical aspects of our existence.

    1. I agree, Francesca — it’s also a huge struggle for me. That’s why I came up with a process, a method of operation, a list of steps to take, to make it more conscious and deliberate for myself. It’s hard work, though. Because I really don’t like to let things go. I like to dwell on them.

  2. Trying to do this after a bad breakup. Finding it exceedingly difficult. I am not an angry bitter person usually so I am struggling, but I suppose it is slowly improving. Just hard to see sometimes. Must keep reminding myself to breathe and to be grateful and let the feelings go. Thanks for the post.

    1. It’s definitely not easy. I’ve discovered that forgiveness isn’t something that just “happens,” it’s hard work, requiring much effort, as well as time. And bad breakups are one of the hardest things to work through. I’m sorry for your pain, but glad that you’re strong enough to keep on trying to let it go. Just a reminder (and one I give myself, all the time): be patient with yourself, and forgive yourself, too.

  3. Excellent options, Tracy. For me, the most at-the-heart-of-the-issue was “Remind myself that the person who hurt me is not in control of my life or my happiness. I am.” Thank you for the reminder.

  4. Honestly I have no trouble letting things go, Tracy. Stress and frustration aren’t good for my body, so I choose to put myself first and move on. Carrying around resentment only hurts the carrier, the other person has moved on to another victim…that’s how they operate.
    What a sweet photo of you!

    1. Those are wise words, Jill. Stress and frustration aren’t good for any of us, but when we have physical problems, we REALLY notice how much emotional negativity hurts us.
      Actually, that’s not me, it’s a little girl from Wisconsin. But, I just realized that I looked very much like her when I was her age (a long, long time ago!)

  5. Resentment is such a powerful force if we let it take hold and as we all know, it only hurts the one who is resentful, not the one who hurt us in the first place. Being able to forgive and let it all go isn’t always easy but it’s the only way…and I find walking is a wonderful way to let it all out. That and prayer. The harder I pound those streets the better. Feels so good doesn’t it? <3

  6. Hi Tracy all our minds have their own quirks one of my many little “things” is that whenever I read something by someone I knew personally I find myself reading it in their voice–the timbre, pacing and all the little nuances; all of it. For those that I have not met yet in person, it seems my mind has found a way to fill the void–a soundtrack; a piece of music that either suits the mood or the theme. As I read this–twice actually–this theme kept playing:

    1. Wow–that is so cool.
      I, too, hear people’s voices in my head when I’m reading, if I’ve ever met them or heard them read aloud. I don’t, however, hear music. I’m going to try thinking about it, to see what happens.

  7. Tracy … Your decision to let it go is a sound one. Otherwise it just eats away at us, not the person who caused the pain.
    Years ago, when I was out walking my dog, I was obsessing about a hurt that happened about a few years earlier. I looked over in the darkness and saw my neighbor sitting on the porch. He probably things I’m mad. A year or two later, I bumped into one of the two women who hurt me. I thought, “You say you’re a Christian. Prove it.” I gave her my biggest smile and said ‘hello.’ She looked at me coldly and walked away without saying anything. But I felt better having, as you said, ‘let it go.’
    A great quote I’ve heard on this subject is: “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” Anne Lamott, “Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith.”

    1. That’s a perfect analogy. I admire Anne Lamott’s writing, but I don’t remember reading that one. Thanks for sharing it! Lovely words.
      I used to feel so responsible for everyone else’s reactions, but I’ve learned, finally, that people like the woman who walked away from you, will do what they routinely and habitually do (stay cold, or angry, or bitter, or unkind) no matter what we do.

    1. It is… I think we who move one (geographically) tend to understand this concept even more deeply on a spiritual level. Or, maybe it’s easier to incorporate into our consciousness, because we’ve incorporated it, geographically. ?

  8. Great process for letting go Tracy. I’m much better at it than I used to be, though I do sometimes still find myself having endless conversations in my head where I work out the issues when someone has hurt me.

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