Letting go

I want to share a story about the power of forgiveness.  It begins when I was harboring the deepest un-forgiveness I’ve ever felt.

After four years of dating, my fiancée told me she didn’t want to marry me after all. This felt like such an unfair decision. I had no choice –- no say in it at all. Also, it felt like it came out of left field.

It was such a struggle. I was very angry, and I grappled with intense feelings of loneliness and worthlessness.  I’d loved this woman so dearly for such a long time, but after the breakup she seemed so cruel.  At least that was how it felt at the time, and I couldn’t reconcile the two images.

I was diagnosed as clinically depressed, among other things.  I contemplated suicide.  Several times I called suicide hotlines in the middle of the night.

I vividly remember the turning point. I had left a class early because I started to experience the symptoms of a panic attack. I went home to my dorm room and started calling friends. No one picked up. Not even my parents answered, which was unusual.  After trying about 30 different phone numbers, I gave up and just wept.

Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “Would existence without personal friends be to you a blank? Then the time will come when you will be solitary, left without sympathy….” 1  This passage had new meaning for me that night. It became a poignant fact.

Later, still feeling a powerful urge to speak with someone — anyone — I thought of my old Sunday School teacher. It was 11:30 PM, but by that point I was feeling so desperate that good manners went out the window.

I woke him up.  He assured me he didn’t mind.  Then I just vented for a good ten or fifteen minutes. He listened calmly and patiently. Finally, he asked me a striking question: “Do you love her enough to let go of this?”

The question baffled me. I’d never even considered letting go.  She’d let go, which was why I was so angry. Plus, the love we’d shared was so dear to me. How could I let go of it like it meant nothing? So I just talked around his question, probably for another ten minutes.

Then he asked again, “Do you love her enough to let go?”  The only response I could think of was, “I never thought I’d have to.”  Long pause.  Then he answered, “Yeah . . . neither did I.”

I instantly knew what he meant.  And it was something much more profound than my insecure rambling. He was referring to his wife of 20+ years, who had passed away unexpectedly just a few years before.  Every memory I had of this woman was so warm, so encouraging, so welcoming, and so joyous. I couldn’t imagine how hard it must have been for him to lose her. So I just stopped talking. What could I say?

He spoke a little more, gently offering some advice.  And after we got off the phone, his question, which had been so alarming to me, finally sunk in. I realized, for the first time in months, that hanging onto the past wasn’t loving toward my ex.  It wasn’t helping me either. Letting go was actually the most loving thing to do for both of us.

For me, in that moment, this was a revolutionary idea. I realized that I didn’t have to stop loving my ex, which was something I’d feared.  I could continue loving in a deeper way by honoring her path, even if it was going in a different direction. Right then, I decided to forgive her completely.  And for the first time, it was my decision to let go, rather than having the decision forced on me.

I woke up the next morning feeling freer and more alive than I had since the breakup. I called my ex and, for the first time in months, she took my call.  I invited her to meet me at a coffee shop, and she agreed. That in itself was amazing.

Once there, I told her I’d genuinely forgiven her, and wished her nothing but the best. As we talked, she began feeling a huge sense of responsibility for the way she’d been treating me. That, too, was amazing. When I no longer needed to hear an apology — that’s when I got one.

To be honest, we still had arguments after this meeting, and eventually decided not to maintain contact. But we came to that decision together, as equals, in a spirit of unselfishness.  And over time, all my scary diagnoses dropped away into their “native nothingness.” 2

This experience remains a watershed moment for me.  I learned for the first time what real forgiveness feels like –- and I experienced the gentle way forgiveness allows healing to happen.

By Gordon Myers

Check out the related Radical Act:
FORGIVE 70 x 7

Notes:

  1. Science and Health, p. 266.
  2. Id. at 365.

Comments

  1. Erin F. says:

    Dear Gordon!  Thank you so much for sharing this.  It’s always humbling when we find the best way to love someone may not be the way we thought or wanted to.  I’m so glad you’ve been able to demonstrate that, and that your demonstration is available as a guidepost for others.  It’s always a joy to read your insights. :)

  2. Gordon says:

    Wow. I am so grateful for these comments, guys! Really. And I’m so glad to hear that my experience has proved helpful for others too. What blesses one, blesses all. Thank you all for your support!

  3. Ali B says:

    Gordon, thank you.  I have read this article many times over the last month and each time have found something new in it.  We have all gone through a loss of a relationship and the simple truth you shared in here is so powerfully helpful.  Thank you.

  4. Robin says:

    Good on you, Gordon. It is wonderful to read you sincere exploration of spiritual ideas to make progress. It is powerful to note what Mrs Eddy says on page 266 of her textbook after the question about whether existence without personal friends would be a blank. She writes, ” but this seeming vacuum is already filled with divine Love. When this hour of development comes, even if you cling to personal joys, spiritual Love will force you to accept what best promotes your growth.” She also notes, “the author has experienced the foregoing prophecy and its blessings.” I am grateful for her wisdom that was born from experience. The blank we seem to feel without personal friends is, in fact, an illusion as Divine Love fills all space.

  5. Annette-D says:

    When I read this, I thought of Jesus’ question to the man by the pool of Bethesda.  Are you willing to be whole?  Basically asking, are you willing to let go of a false concept of yourself and get up and go do what you’re supposed to be doing?  I think letting go is a really important concept in our daily work–whether it’s a relationship that’s not quite right, or whether it’s the general belief of life in matter.

    I love this modern day account of letting go.  It makes me look at my own life and ask myself if I’m willing to let go of whatever it is that doesn’t spiritualize my concept of things.  Resentment, disappointment, even aging beliefs.  Whatever it is, I can let go of it now.

    Thanks for sharing Gordon!

     

  6. katiebrotten says:

    Gordon, this is awesome. Thanks so much.

  7. Sue says:

    Thank you for writing from the heart and sharing your experience. Just reading the comments above shows it was helpful to others to hear and see. I felt the evidence of Love resorting your soul–spiritual sense [paraphrased from Mary Baker Eddy's version of Psalm 23 P. 578. in Science and Health.]  The statement about “would existence without personal friends to you be a blank?” hit me too a number of years ago  when a serious relationship ended.  But in the years following, I found I had learned a lot and praying with a conviction of God’s unconditional love and guidance, I found that my joy was not connected to a person but was found in listening to God’s loving guidance.  His love helped me to feel loved and renewed, to enjoy my friends and colleagues, to find new activities and be a better person. Each lesson learned helped with the next time when friendships and people in my life took a different path than I did or when a person close to me passed on. God has already filled that seeming void with continuing and new outlets which helped me grow and meet the needs of others needing fellowship. It also brought me into a good relationship and marriage after much prayer and listening. Thank goodness for the continuing love you felt from your Sunday School experience and the compassion of your teacher.

  8. Susana says:

    This is one of the best things I’ve read lately.

  9. Nate says:

    This is profound.

  10. Heather Libbe says:

    Gordon — thanks so much for humbling sharing your experience; what a powerful example of Love’s tender care!

  11. Gordon says:

    Aw, thanks guys! Or, I guess, since each one of you said “thanks,” I should be saying “you’re welcome!” Except that doesn’t feel right to me… since I was hardly the hero of this story. Love was the real hero of this story. (Plus my former Sunday School teacher, too. He’s pretty heroic.) I’m so glad to hear that some of you can apply the lessons to every avenue of life; that’s what it’s all about!

    I also just want to say to anyone reading this that, in my situation, the right and most-loving thing to do was to accept the breakup and completely let go of the relationship. But in other people’s situations, things may be different. In other situations, the most loving thing might involve a rejuvenation of a relationship (see Job 14:7), renewing “the old trysting-times.”

    But the outward circumstance (engagement, breakup, whatever) was not really the point of this story, anyway. The point was learning about a deeper, more meaningful and more real sense of Love that cannot leave. God will guide you when you let Her. But I have found that a big part of letting God guide you is having a constant willingness to let go and trust Him — even if that does mean losing a particular human relationship, and even if you presently disagree with Her.

  12. daphne says:

    Thank you so much for writing this piece. I have had a similar experience of a profound breakup and I loved what you shared about letting go. It is beautiful, and it helped me to read it. I like the quote about “would existence without personal friends to you be a blank?” i’m parahrasing. I’ve been in that boat and knowing that God is there is all that is needed.

  13. Chris says:

    What you’ve shared is helpful because it applies to all types and forms of relationships. Thanks!

    “Love is not something put upon a shelf, to be taken down on rare occasions with sugar-tongs and laid on a rose-leaf. I make strong demands on love, call for active witnesses to prove it, and noble sacrifices and grand achievements as its results. Unless these appear, I cast aside the word as a sham and counterfeit, having no ring of the true metal. Love cannot be a mere abstraction, or goodness without activity and power. ” (Mary Baker Eddy, Mis. 250)

     

  14. Peter says:

    Thanks so much bro’ Gordon.  Your point about continuing to love is so key.  We can be grateful for the good received, and then surely we are fitted to receive more… (as MBE would say).

  15. Thanks for writing this. I’ve never considered a break-up from that point of view before. It’s so profoundly unselfish and such a pure reflection of God’s love. I’m going to stop writing now and think about it some more!

  16. nina says:

    I love it too.  Simple and profound, and so helpful to everyone who’s still holding a grudge.  Which is probably . . .  everyone.  Thank you so much Gordon!

  17. jenny says:

    This is a brilliant article. So simple, so profound, so completely from the heart. I love your honesty–”The question baffled me. I’d never even considered letting go.”–and the gentle way you were eventually able to yield to the light and liberation of that message. This is so helpful in dealing with any kind of loss, or unexpected change in direction–and not just in the arena of relationships. Thanks for sharing your healing, Gordon.

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