Letting go is something we all struggle with. What makes it even harder is knowing when to let go. We often try to deceive ourselves, finding reasons to stay when those reasons evaporated long ago. How do we know when it’s time to let go?
It’s time to let go when…
Your purpose no longer exists
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Some years ago a mother of two was near tears, desperately unhappy in her marriage and thinking of giving up. I asked her why she married her husband in the first place. “Well, he was Catholic, generous with his money, and good with children,” she replied. I asked if those were still true and she agreed they were. He hadn’t changed; she had. She persevered with the relationship and they are now in a stable marriage.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the nitty gritty of daily frustrations that we forget our purpose for doing our work or being in a relationship. If the purpose still exists, that’s a good reason to stay on.
When you find no more joy
“Joy, rather than happiness, is the goal of life. For joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings.” – Rollo May
Sometimes the original purpose does not exist anymore, but there’s another reason to stay. Enjoyment is a pretty good reason to continue doing something, even if it serves no specific purpose. Joy is our soul’s way of telling us who we are.
I started playing ultimate frisbee because a friend was keen and I went along to keep her company. Eventually she moved on to other pursuits but I found that I enjoyed the game and so continued playing, even though the original reason for going didn’t exist anymore.
When no one benefits anymore
“Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Even if the original purpose has been lost and we are not enjoying something anymore, personal growth can be worth staying on for. Just because a situation is becoming worse is not necessarily a reason to leave, as long as we are becoming better.
I know someone who is stuck in a relationship that makes her cry, and a job that makes her frustrated. Often I wonder why she doesn’t just move on. Yet when I see how she is growing as a person, learning and accepting things about herself that the relationship and job have shown her, I am full of admiration.
Time to let go
“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
When none of the above is true though, it’s time to think very seriously about letting go. Some think of letting go as giving up, as failing. Sometimes this is true, especially when our inner voice urges us forward but our courage fails us. Other times though, letting go is a necessary stage of growth.
Holding on for a purpose, for sheer joy, or because we are growing, are all good reasons not to let go. But holding on for the sake of holding on is a sign that we have lost our way. Let go of what’s holding you back from a richer, fuller life. One day, you’ll look back and marvel at how far you’ve come.