I’ve read a lot of self-help books over the years, and many of them talk about the idea of “letting go.” For a long time, this attitude kind of annoyed me. If I was anxious or frustrated about something, the last thing I wanted to do was let it go. Instead, I wanted to do something to change or fix the problem.
I have been reading some books lately by Richard Rohr, who is a Catholic priest and spiritual director, and I have come to think about the idea of letting go in a different way. Rohr talks about how in the first half of life, we are consumed with building our life and ego. (Our ego has to do with the ways we build our sense of self-esteem or self-importance.) Our personality solidifies, we choose a career, decide what is right and wrong, join a religion, and get invested in politics.
Crack in the Foundation
But at a certain point (perhaps in our 30s or 40s), the foundation of the life we have built for ourselves seems to crack a little. Our personality becomes rigid, and we get the sense that we might not always engage the world in a way that is most beneficial to us. We get bored at our job. We might go through a divorce. Religion seems empty and disconnected from an actual experience with God. We get the sense that “our way” of viewing the world is perhaps just one of many lenses that could be helpful.
If we’re open to it, personal and spiritual growth often involves deconstructing the life we have built and letting go. We catch ourselves in the act of responding rigidly, and perhaps open ourselves up to new ways of engaging with others and the world. We consider how we might connect our job to our sense of mission (or perhaps change jobs). We soften the rigid boundaries that define our racial/ethnic, religious, and political groupings. We open ourselves up to deeper levels of connection to God.
All of this movement involves letting go. We are heavily invested in a particular way of seeing ourselves and the world, and this way is comfortable. It sucks to realize that all our efforts have not made us the loving, deep, connected human being that we long to be. The invitation is to soften and loosen our grip on our ego, structures, and viewpoint. But you have to be okay with letting go.