Let Go to Grow
Updated: Oct 28
A friend and I sat at her kitchen table processing a meeting we had attended. There was one person who shared ideas and suggestions in a way that rubbed her wrong. Even though my friend liked this person and appreciated her ideas, she had negative feelings towards her.
As my friend reflected, she realized that the tone and delivery of this person reminded her of her father, which was not a happy memory. The old voices of not doing enough, being enough, or doing it right quickly came back.
Then the lightbulb came on! The problem wasn’t this person or what she said, rather, it was the feelings that were surfacing because of how this person shared.
My friend acknowledged she didn’t want the negative feelings from the past take over her ability to live in today. She didn’t want them to prevent her from building a strong relationship with this team member. She knew she needed to remind herself that she had worked through those icky feelings from growing up and had let go of the hurt from the past. She was not the person those feelings portrayed. And this person wasn’t her dad!
Why is letting go so hard?
Whether we are letting go of a relationship, a hope, a dream, an idea, a task, a hurt, an expectation of a loved one, a false self-perception…letting go is HARD.
1. Letting go isn’t a checklist. You don’t do it once and then it’s done. Oftentimes, we let go in one moment and then we need to let go again in another moment.
2. Letting go takes time. Letting go is a form of loss, and we don’t process loss quickly. We have to work through multiple emotions before we can let go - hurt, anger, blame, disappointment, frustration, and/or sadness.
3. Letting go requires a strong sense of self. Especially when our identity is closely tied with what we are letting go.
If letting go is so hard, why do it?
Perhaps the best way to answer this is to think about what might happen if you don’t let go.
· What opportunities are you missing because you are holding on to something else?
· In what ways will you be held captive if you keep holding on?
3 Tips to Let Go and Choose Growth
1. View Your Life In Seasons
When we think of seasons we usually think of the weather and TV shows. But what about our lives?
Our lives have seasons, too:
· Preparing, doing, reflecting
· Adolescent, young adult, adult, senior citizen
· Busy, waiting, difficult
I am letting go of the season of parenting elementary kids. The season of teaching them how to tie shoes, pack a lunch, and read a book are behind me. Now my kids need motivation and context to own their learning and do their best work. They need help navigating their feelings and articulating what they believe.
While I may wish I was teaching them easy and tangible life skills I have to let go of that season, so I don’t miss what my kids need now.
What season are you in? Personally? Professionally?
Are their things you need to let go of so that you can be fully present in your current season?
In essence, forgiveness is letting go of a wrong someone has done towards us. It’s choosing to not hold that wrong against them. Forgiveness is more for us than it is for the forgivee. We forgive because God forgave us first.
It’s easier to forgive when we remember that forgiveness:
· doesn’t make the wrong right,
· doesn’t give the person permission to do it again,
· isn’t forgetting,
· isn’t reconciling,
· isn’t “one and done.”
Forgiveness is a choice. It’s a continual process of letting go. Letting go of the wrongs done to us so we aren’t a prisoner of the past.
3. Hold on Loosely
On a warm spring day, I stood on a cliff overlooking a river. When I looked up, I could see miles of northern Iowa countryside - buildings, farmland, and steep limestone cliffs. When I looked down, I saw the twists and turns of the Upper Iowa River.
I was mesmerized by the water and intently watched it for several minutes. I noticed an island in the stream. The water went on both sides. On the right side, the water ran quickly through a short, narrow channel. On the left side, the water took a wide horseshoe shaped swing. It widened out so much that it almost looked like the water stopped. Eventually both sides came back together.
I was grieving a friendship that day. Someone whom I had grown close to didn’t have as much time to hang out. I missed her. On that day, I was wondering what would happen to our friendship. Would it last? I felt like I needed to let go of my expectations, but I was fighting that feeling.
Then I realized that my friend was living in the right side of the river where life was moving fast – she had extra activities and demands on her time. I was living on the left side. My life was in a slower season. I had more time for friendship.
It occurred to me that the separation we were experiencing was most likely temporary. Just like the stream, we’d come back together. I had to let go, live where I was, and let her live where she was.
It was then that I decided to hold loosely to our friendship, and really to all my friendships. To see them as a gift for the time we have them. To recognize that people come in and out of our lives for a season, for a reason. At times, we are in the same part of the stream, and at other times we each go our own way and at our own pace.
Over 20 years later, that is how our friendship has ebbed and flowed. We have had seasons where our lives were in the same place and seasons where our rivers branched out to explore other things.
However, to keep the friendship, I needed to let go.
Have you been there?
Years ago, I was in a school hallway dropping off my daughter in a nursery so I could attend a parenting class. She didn’t want to go to the nursery. The staff and I pointed out all the exciting things for her to explore and play with, but each time I set her down so she could walk in, she clung to me. Several of those mornings she ended up in the parenting class with me, instead of in the nursery.
For those of you who are parents, you know what it is like to have a clinging child. And you know when they really do need you, and when it’s time for them to sprout their wings and try something new.
Whether or not you’ve been a parent, you know, for yourself, when it's time to let go and try something new.
What are you clinging to?
· A task at work that should be delegated to someone else?
· An ineffective way of doing something?
· A habit or mindset that isn’t serving you well?
· Unrealistic expectations of a loved one?
Is what you are holding on to preventing you from fully living in today? From exploring something new? From learning more about yourself?
Is it time for you to let go of the old and let in the new?