A core ritual of Alcoholics Anonymous is the reading of the “Serenity Prayer.” If some of my readers are cringing about an addiction lecture, STOP! Alcohol is not the topic of this missive, but the wisdom of the prayer is. Essentially, the Serenity Prayer asks us to gain an understanding of our position and role in life, at any point in time. It exhorts us to “change the things we can change”, to “accept the things we cannot change” and, most importantly, to gain “the wisdom to know the difference.”
This principle has multiple applications, of course. For example, good parents aspire to have their children be successful in school and earn good grades. We seek to help, but at times we cross the line from helping to enabling. So we spend the weekend building the exploding volcano for our fifth grader’s science project as they silently observe our efforts while playing video games on their cell phone. As Dad is doing so, he also quietly recognizes that his daughter is learning almost nothing about geothermal magma from his efforts. He shouldn’t be doing it. He knows that. But he just can’t “let go” of the enabling behavior.
Much of my time as a counselor involves working with couples. Whether they realize fully or not, each party mostly seeks to have their partner behave differently. This condition is validated by the fact that their objections have some legitimate basis. She does tend to nag, and he makes all the decisions without her input. Each of the spouses focuses on the shortcoming of the other while turning away from an examination of his/her own conduct. My job as their mediator is to shift the focus to their own actions, rather than their partner’s deeds. And they need to be reminded of the “wisdom” in seeing the difference. Each needs to “let go” of their arguments and attitudes in order to move forward.
The best thing about yesterday (November 4) is that it is the day after Election Day. Assuming that all my readers voted (and shame on you if you didn’t), some of us were elated by the result while others were disappointed. Voters fit into three categories:
1. Those who loved Trump
2. Those who hated Trump
3. Those who voted for the other guy, with the belief that he was the lesser of two evils
So whether we are talking about parenting, spousal relationships or politics, this week’s title delivers an important message. Knowing when to “let go” is an essential ingredient in life improvement. Parents need to allow their children to fail, understanding that academic progress can only come via our kids’ efforts, not ours. Letting go of past grievances and offenses allows partners to regain control of their feelings and function more supportively and lovingly. And good citizens who vote must to move from emotion to reason in coming to understand our country’s characteristics, its virtues, and its areas of needed improvement.
Stephen Covey asks us to “seek first to understand rather than be understood.” A wise person once observed, “No one ever learned anything with an open mouth.” It’s time to “let go” of personal ego and attitude and embrace the humility that is inherent in the simple act of listening.
When you let go, you make space or better things to come into your life. Anonymous