The Art of Letting Go


I am slowly learning the art of letting go. In the past month, my oldest daughter Janae became engaged to the love of her life. I’m learning to let go of my daughter. After three months of hard work cutting down avocado trees at The Grove, I now have weeds to cut and lemon trees to prune! I’m learning to let go of the idea that my work on the property will ever be finished. I am also in the midst of difficult business and creative challenges. I’m learning to let go of certain things I have no control over. If anyone has ever said to you, “Oh, you just need to let it go,” even if you feel like slapping them, there’s still wisdom in their words.

The art of letting go is the scary, but most secure path to true spiritual and emotional freedom. It is an art form, not in the traditional sense, because it requires constant practice, experimentation, and creativity.

To find peace and contentment, we have to ask ourselves, “How do I best cultivate the art of letting go?”

What do I mean by the vague, ephemeral phrase of “letting go”? A few familiar words come to mind…

Surrender. Relinquish. Give up. Abandon. Release. You may have a few words of your own.

You and I live in a world where we are told, trained and indoctrinated to gain, acquire, possess, control and hang onto things that come with the overt message that these things will bring us life! Buy the new car. The vacation home. The new dress. Get the job. Find the right spouse. Build up the nest egg. Be debt-free. Gain the respect and approval of others.

You and I know that there’s nothing inherently wrong in any of these things. They just don’t give us the life our hearts and souls are really thirsting for.

So, when there’s conflict…or when a dream is dashed…or someone disapproves of us…or all that hard work doesn’t pay off…or you discover you’re sick…you can begin to live in one of three extremes…

What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with them? What’s wrong with God?

I don’t find these questions very useful because they put us at odds with ourselves, others or God.

Enter the lost art of letting go.

Why is it a lost art?

Because letting go is a continual learning process. And until we realize that we’re hanging onto something that we thought we’d bring us sort of life or fulfillment, we’re lost. Becoming adept at any art form is a continual process of learning and practice. In our art, our life and our faith.

Life doesn’t always resolve itself. Tension doesn’t always go away.

Which is why trust. Faith. Hope. And learning the art of letting go are so necessary.

There’s great freedom in not having everything all figured out.

If you take the posture of a learner, you position yourself for exciting new discoveries and “Aha!” moments.

And in the eminent words of the great theologian, Forrest Gump, “That’s all I got to say about that.”

Questions: I don’t want to hand out any tips or tricks today…what do you have to say about the art of letting go? What does it look like in your life?

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  • DM

    Joey, these are very thoughtful words that resonate with me. Thank you for writing this.

    It wasn’t until I was a few years when, on the other side of my divorce that I began learning to genuinely take to heart some of the spiritual statements — I sometimes regarded them as ‘religious rhetoric’ — that I grew up with in the Church (like “Let go and let God” or “God’s God and I’m not,” to note just a couple). So when my ex-wife sent one of her boyfriends to pick up my boys at elementary school, or when they were just four and six years old and they rode on another boyfriend’s motorcycle — I was reeling: Hurt, sad, scared, afraid. I wanted to control my boys’ lives, to keep them safe and shelter them from physical, emotional or spiritual pain. But I couldn’t and I still can’t. Since then I have had conversations with my boys about developing their own personal relationships with our Lord (they are only seven and nine years old still), and that when they are in a scary, uncomfortable or unpredictable situation that God is with them; he’s also with me. I’m not sure how effectively the seeds of this principle have taken root in their hearts but I believe it’s better to communicate this to them than not. And I have to continually remind myself that when my children are not with me that they are in God’s hands, and if he holds the world in his hands he’s definitely got us.

    Not to be long-winded here but I have some empathy for persevering and letting go, and I want you to know you are not alone. There’s many other areas of my life besides parenting where I need to let go regularly… and a new lesson I’ve recently been trying to learn is that I need other people. Community (of healthy people). I don’t need things or stuff in excess, but I do need relationships like I need water. I know you’ve written about this at length and I thank you for being an inspiration to all of us and writing what many of us may feel but for whatever reasons may be inhibited to disclose.

    We may need to let go of a lot of things but I don’t want to let go of you or your words of wisdom, not yet.

    Thanks again

    • Joey O’Connor

      Wow DM, what a powerful story you’ve shared. Thanks for being real and
      authentic. As a dad of four kids, I can’t imagine what you’ve gone
      through (don’t worry…I won’t say another terrible euphemism “I know
      how you feel.”), but I do appreciate the honesty with which you’ve
      shared your story.

      Yes, we do need relationships like water. My
      hope for you is that you have a circle of friends who have walked with
      you in this journey with grace and love. Your perspective is refreshing.

  • AD

    What if you want to let go but no matter how hard you try you just can’t seem to do it?

    • Joey O’Connor

      Perhaps a better word than “letting go” is “surrender.” A number of thoughts come to mind and depending on your situation, it may involve: Seeking counsel, renewing your mind to push back the recurring thoughts/situation you can’t let go of, rebuking the enemy (I do believe we have a spiritual enemy and we are admonished to resist him), practicing silence and meditating on scripture. Simple confession “Help me Lord in my weakness…”

      Any number of spiritual practices may be helpful, but they are called practice because we are called to do them again and again…i.e. practice. If it were easy, it probably wouldn’t involved spiritual growth…my prayers are with you.

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