What is the difference between ‘Letting go’ and ‘giving up’?

during this time of uncertainty and change, it seems that so many people are finding themselves at a crossroads in their lives.

In our careers, in relationships, health, and well-being, or in the never-ending quest for meaning and purpose, we can often find ourselves in a very different place from where we first set off. Inspiration can wither; ambition and vision can blur and dissolve. We’re left wondering ‘What the hell was I thinking?’

Disillusioned and confused, struggling with an inner battle between head and heart, we start asking the question, ‘Am I letting go of something that has run its natural course? Or am I giving up and not completing a task that I set for myself – breaking a commitment I have made?”

Some of us may fall into the role of the victim; desperate to find all the reasons why this business, or that relationship, or that health goal didn’t work out for us, even though we tried so very, very hard.

Others choose to take it all on board and wallow in the shame, guilt, remorse, and regret of a bad decision,  a poor judgment call, or a hard lesson learned. “I didn’t try hard enough, it was all my fault, I have let myself down, I’m a failure”.

We may, at various times in our lives, experience both of these realms of introspection. Sometimes it is so hard to know which one we are in. Are we running away, or actually stopping and turning to face our demons? Are we avoiding and rationalising? Or are we seeing the end of an illusion? A reality check, a hard truth?

Maybe we can never really know at the time. Perhaps it is what comes next, that informs and educates us to be better attuned to our own intuition and instincts, and to develop our discernment.

How often have we looked back, and realized that if certain events that at the time, seemed utterly awful and confronting had not occurred, then the next set of events could simply not have happened? They didn’t exist or were not available to us at the time. That book had not been published, that offer or opportunity had not arrived in front of us, or that person was not in our lives.  The door wasn’t yet open. We were not ready for that experience.

The extent to which we try to engineer and control our lives is also the extent to which we have to deal with disappointment and frustrations. We create our own expectations of ourselves or worse, we allow others to impose theirs on us. So what is the difference between letting go and giving up? Between surrender and defeat, between acceptance and absolving?

The key may lie in our ability to respond to the flux of life.   Can we feel all the pangs and cringes of so-called failure and self-judgment, and just let that be there in all its gory glory?

Like learning to ride a bike, it often hurts like hell, but something is always learned, something develops. Consciously or not, we grow and change. To reflect on this truth is to become more adept to handle the next challenge with just a hint more strength, and a bit more determination, but also it’s a relaxation into our imperfections. In that, is the liberation of letting go. Therein lies the surrender, and humility in the face of our vulnerability and exposure. It will always be a time of accelerated growth and development if we can stay with the pain, forgive ourselves, and stay trusting. Then we can say we are letting go, letting the river take us downstream to an unknown ocean.

Giving up is just a position. It’s a reaction to disappointment, or a refusal to relinquish the illusion of control. We can have aspirations, ambitions, goals, and desires, but in the end, life is chaotic – stormy and unpredictable. Sometimes, when the clouds part we find ourselves in uncharted territory. This is where we can learn to IMG_6197let go and trust in our ship. To ride the waves of the next tempest. We learn to better navigate with our own inner compass and our true North Star by seeing not just where we are headed, but from where we have come.

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