Holding on is believing that there’s only a past; letting go is knowing that there’s a future.Daphne Rose Kingma
Who among you feels that disagreements can only be resolved when one party acknowledges that the other is right? That was me in the early days of my marriage. Ah, the black and white clarity of being 22.
A Sustainable Strategy
Any argument that appeared on the scene to interrupt marital bliss could, and would, be resolved through the cold, unflinching, crystal clarity of reason. Logic would prevail and I would help shine its illumination upon my loving bride who was patiently waiting for me to help her understand.
I discovered that my approach to disagreements was not a sustainable strategy. I also discovered that, even in moments when I felt completely right or justified, it was not always the case. Often, we were both “right” – at least in our own minds.
How do we unpackage such complexity as human emotion, perception, belief, and desire? Mixed with what we “know”, what we feel, see, and want often conspire to create their own ecosystem of self-righteousness that blinds us to other possibilities. Coupled with a compulsion to bring disagreements to closure, we fly rapidly toward the untenable position of trying to “win” every disagreement.
Why Can’t You Just Let It Go?
In my growth as a young husband, I distinctly remember a follow-on discussion the day after an argument in which I was determined to help her understand. Looking at me unflinchingly, and even less apologetically, the love of my life said “we don’t have to bring closure to everything. Why can’t you just let it go?”
Where else do we see similar thinking to mine above? All around us. We are a society consumed by scientism, we seek causes to all problems, proof for all the right answers, and justification for what we choose to believe. Our society is built on the individual’s insidious need to be right and we now have constant access to the megaphones to project our conclusions as frequently as we want.
Complicating the already tricky dynamics of human interactions, we have an entire industry of psychotherapists ready to help us unravel the root causes of our thinking, habits, beliefs, and neurosis so we have perfectly logical reasoning for why we are the way we are. Now, we can really bring things to closure as we help each other understand the rationale behind bad habits, emotional reactions, beliefs, and even our unreasonable expectations. We can’t help it, we were made this way.
Another Cause Is Born
Unfortunately, all of that root-cause understanding isn’t really helping us. We desperately want to be justified. We need to be right. When the world disagrees, we struggle to reconcile it. We cope by retreating, medicating, or gripping more tightly to our carefully constructed reality. Insert hashtag here – another cause is born.
Thinking back to the lesson offered to me by my young bride so many years ago, I realize that perhaps it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Perhaps the closure we so desperately need isn’t the one we’re pursuing…or the one we’re told to pursue. Perhaps we just need to learn to let go.
At its heart, letting go is really about forgiveness. Forgiveness of others and of ourselves. When we let go, we acknowledge something bigger than the slight or offense weighing on us. When we demand closure, we are demanding an acknowledgement of the propriety of our position, an apology, or recompense. Though our demand may be perfectly reasonable, the other person may choose not to acquiesce.
Letting Go Equals Empowerment
When we feel we are wronged, our pride tells us that it must be made right. Our sense of justice kicks-in. The truth is that most of the time, there is no making it right – there is only what we hold on to. Putting ourselves in this position, we give away our power and make our well-being contingent on the other person; we are stuck until they, or someone else, releases us.
Letting go is self empowerment. When we push past, we determine that we are bigger than the disagreement or offense. When we let go, we choose not to be held back by waiting while opting to move forward intentionally. Letting go doesn’t have to mean approval or agreement, it means that you have the strength to move on after taking a punch. Or, in the case of the young couple, it means you care enough to look past the momentary disagreements toward the long horizon of your marital commitment.
That young husband is now a veteran spouse but it still takes work to let go. My desire to be right remains and, though the nature of our disagreements has changed, my need to be intentional with letting go also remains. Stop worrying about winning, being right, or convincing in every disagreement. Look at the bigger picture and remember that sometimes letting go is just the resolution you need.