Mind Matters

by Rev. Robert H. Tucker

Number 268
November 3, 1997

Letting Go


An offhand remark in the hospice chaplain's talk intrigued me.

"Physicians," he said, "trained to heal, sometimes see a dying patient 'giving up' when the person is really 'letting go'." Not just physicians, I thought, but such blurred vision is endemic. Too many times in order not to give up, I have clung to the unrealistic, the unachievable and the unfulfillable, when I should have 'let go.'

There was the dozen years of working as a minister and then as a teacher while always hovering in the background was my feeling of personal incompleteness without a doctorate. Finally, when the opportunity availed itself, I was able to step back and honestly discern my real goals, and I could let go of that dream without feeling that I was giving up. Another time an overdeveloped commitment to an organization, driven by that sense of 'if you start something, finish it,' kept me from giving up when I should have let go far sooner than I did. Letting go is difficult because the perennial American story is that the real winners never say "it can't be done."

It is from losers, the dying, that the chaplain said we can learn that there are times in dying (as well as living) when we need to let go--times when we bump our heads against our intellectual capacity, reach the limits of our physical strength, and acknowledge the priority of family and community responsibilities.

In the Christian tradition, one gift of the Spirit is 'discernment'--the ability to see things as they are and not as we wish them to be. Discernment is the ability to see the Spirit's movement in our lives and in society.

Honestly seeing things as they are and then 'letting go,' trusting the Spirit's leading, can be, in a culture that views anything less than being No. 1 as a failure, a discovery of pure grace.


--Robert H. Tucker
3 November 1997

© Robert H. Tucker, 1997.
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