The Beauty of Letting Go

Author C. S. Lewis reminds us that “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” Our current culture would persuade us that the important thing in this life is to grab, grasp, and accumulate. More is way better. But many are discovering the beauty of letting go. We are learning that it is possible to hold on too tightly and lose everything. The tighter we squeeze onto the things we are trying to hold, the more we squeeze them right through our fingers and we lose them anyway. 

Of course, there is an important difference between letting go and giving up. Letting go gives you an opportunity to move forward; giving up drops you clear off the monkey bars. 

It is a very subtle temptation that tricks us into thinking that always holding on proves we are strong. But sometimes, letting go allows us to become the person we really wanted to become all along. In fact, history reveals that some of the world’s greatest battles have been won by those wise enough to let it go and take a second strategic look. Alexander Graham Bell is quoted as saying, “When one door closes, another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us." 

It is especially difficult to let go of something you don’t even realize you are gripping so tightly. And usually it is pride that blinds us from recognizing the death grip we have applied. So don't let your pride bully your wisdom into thinking it is imperative to hold on when it is the right time to let go and move forward. The exciting challenge of life seems to be the fine art of deciding when to hang on and when to let go. 

Earlier in my life I had become involved with a local religious institution that later proved to not be a healthy situation for our family. I had to come to a place where I realized that it was prudent to quit allowing the strife, let go of the tension, and move on with our lives in pursuit of other worthwhile and honorable endeavors. It was one of the greatest decisions of my life. Great good has come as a result of that choice. I discovered that you can lose only what you are blindly clinging to, but strategic surrender is certainly not the same as losing. 

The concept of strategic relinquishment of our rights in certain situations, and to certain institutions, runs closely parallel to our relationships with the people who are closest to us. We have heard throughout our lives that if you truly love someone you will let go of her from a selfish and possessive sense in order to help her become all that her potential will allow. . I have seen that work with remarkable results. 

In 1994, Anna Marie and I witnessed an unusual story of love and relinquishment in the African country of Kenya. We were assessing the hospitals around Nairobi and throughout the enchanting Rift Valley. While there, we were invited to stay atElsamere, the famous home of Joy and George Adamson, located on the shores of the impressive Lake Naivasha. While Joy was alive she had gained international notoriety by writing the book Born Free in 1960, a book that sold more than five million copies. A popular movie had later been released in 1966 and had won three Academy Awards and a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture that year. 

In 1956, George Adamson was a game warden for the local African region. He was forced to shoot a lioness as it attacked him, only to later find out that the shooting had left three lion cubs motherless. Two of the cubs were sent to a zoo in Rotterdam, but Joy and George kept Elsa. It was their intention to raise the cub and educate it sufficiently in order to safely release her back into the Masai Mara. They fell in love with Elsa. The book reveals the difficulty experienced by Joy and George in coming to the point of actually releasing Elsa back into the wild.  

At last, Joy succeeded. With mixed feelings and a breaking heart, she returned her friend back to the jungle, alone. Joy and George then traveled to England for a year before returning to Kenya. They were hoping when they returned that they would find Elsa. They did find her, and discovered that she had not forgotten them. In fact, Elsa brought along her three cubs to get acquainted. Elsa became the first lioness to be successfully released back into the wild, the first to have contact after release, and the first known to have cubs. Loving Elsa resulted in setting her free. Love demanded letting go. 

It just might be a better part of wisdom to consider the relationships and situations in which you find yourself today. Whether it is trying to save a lioness or negotiating the monkey bars, it just might be that letting go is what will allow you to move forward.