The Difference Between Letting Go and Losing Control

The Difference Between Letting Go and Losing Control March 31, 2020

Like so many things in life, there is a fine balance between letting go of our need to control everything and losing our willingness to steward what we can control.

We are people of extremes, addicted to the dramatic. We want to control it all or give up entirely. Most of our dabbling in between is a subtle manipulation meant to draw us (and others) to one extreme or the other.

The difficulty is the two enterprises look a lot like one another. We can convince ourselves we are letting go in a healthy way when we are truly surrendering inappropriately. Or we can swear we are just trying to hold on to what is ours when we are really trying to take over and be responsible for what only others can steward.

The wisdom to discern the difference is essential for vibrant living and healthy relationships. When we let go of what is not ours to hold, we enter an arena of freedom otherwise closed off to us by the tyranny of our false perspective. When we take responsibility for ourselves (and ourselves alone), we establish clear boundaries that allow us to live less fractured lives and to engage in healthier relationships.


The Three Things that Belong to You

There are exactly three things you can control: 1) your choices concerning behavior; 2) your attitude/perspective; and 3) whom you trust. That is the end of the list. The only three things you are responsible for in this giant world filled with billions of other humans.

Life is full of all kinds of things that do not make this list. You cannot, for example, control your circumstances. There are events and seasons and things that happen that you cannot, nor are you meant to, control. Likewise, you cannot control the choices of others. You can try to influence them, positively or negatively, effectively or ineffectively. But they are responsible for their three things. And you are responsible for yours.

When our society talks about “letting go” in the context of stress management, we are talking about this. Don’t try to control what does not belong to you. It only ends in frustration.

On the other side of the coin, when we talk about “losing oneself” in society, we are talking about things like codependency, victim mentality, and addiction that are attempts to avoid our part to play in our own lives and the relationships to which we belong.

Discerning the difference between these two is essential. It allows us to live a life free of carrying what is not ours to bear. While, at the same time, allowing us to participate in the life of purpose and meaning we all so desperately long for.

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