Learning to let go is something that can produce a sense of peace in our lives. It is when we cling to things that we tend to become anxious and depressed. Recently I’ve been thinking about all the areas in life where letting go is necessary and healthy.

When a loved one is terminally ill, our natural inclination is to cling tightly to them as we can’t conceive of life without this person. We do all that is within our power to keep them with us-medical interventions, trips to other countries for miracle cures, and things that only prolong their suffering. There comes a time when the best option is to let them go. Death is inevitable for all of us, and we can better spend our time making our loved one comfortable and surrounding them with love. When they pass away we may cling to their memory and their possessions and we feel that we can’t allow others to speak of them. There comes a time when we must let go and celebrate their life with gratitude for the privilege of having been a part of it.

When our children become adults we need to let go and let them live their lives. They will make mistakes, but we did too at their age. Some parents selfishly cling to their children, using their aches and pains to guilt their kids into hanging around longer than they should. We should encourage our children to live their lives and not worry about leaving us behind!

Some relationships just don’t work out, no matter how much we want them to. There comes a time to cut our losses and let that person go. We have to realize that not all relationships were meant to be permanent, but rather served a purpose at a specific time in our lives. It’s okay and even healthy to cut the relationship loose.

Material possessions is another area that we can benefit from letting go. If we are attached to our possessions, we are basically slaves to them. The house, the furnishings,the nice car, the money in the bank, and many other things can hold us hostage. We have all seen television shows about hoarders…how sad that people become owned by their stuff!

Sometimes it’s time to let go of unrealistic expectations we have of ourselves or of others. We may expect perfection from our friends, our children or ourselves, and we do great damage with our expectations. The message we send is that we don’t accept that person as they are, and that they don’t measure up. It’s time to let them off the hook and love them for who they are right now!

Letting go of the control we try to exercise over others is crucial if we hope to enjoy healthy relationships. As long as we think we know how others’ should live their lives, we are taking responsibility for something that is not ours, and we are lacking in respect for others. “Live and let live” is a saying that basically means that we allow others to be who they want to be.

Some people think they must get their way in life, and act childish when they don’t. Learning to let go of “our way is best” allows us to see life in a different way and learn from others. It will also improve our relationships as our friends see us compromising and giving a little.

Anger and resentment can hold us captive for our entire lives if we let them. As long as we are angry and resentful, the person who offended us continues to have a negative influence over us. When we decide to let go of our anger, they no longer control us and we feel peace.

The great American quest for “happiness” is something that can keep us twisted up inside, always just one step away from the illusion of happiness. Real happiness is about contentment with life as it is, enjoying what we have, and loving the people in our lives. Letting go of the search for a “happy life” is what can actually allow us to feel contentment.

The greatest leaders who have ever lived understood something important: they gave up their life for the greater good, sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively. Jesus said that if we give up our life, our will, and our selfish ambition, we will actually gain it! Surrendering our Will to the Will of the Source of life and love will produce peace that cannot be explained in human terms.

What do you need to let go of today?

Debbie Pinkston, Ph.D.