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Letting It Go

It’s really easy to tell people who are worried to “let it go.”  From even the slightest distance, we can clearly recognize how another person’s anxiety contributes to her problem rather than resolves it.  In my experience, however, it is easier to advise others to let things go than to heed my own advice.

My worst worries—like yours—are assigned to things that are completely beyond my control, things that I am powerless to change.  These things often cause me real distress and occasionally contribute to my insomnia.  But the type of pain that I am least adept at letting go is the shocked hurt I feel when other people project their anger or frustration in my direction.  My distress is magnified by two things: I am always surprised—despite having repeatedly witnessed the human capacity for hatred, I continue to be caught off-guard every time—and I never know how to respond.

When my children complain about other kids’ behavior, I am quick to remind them that you cannot control what other people say or do, only how you respond to them.  Taking responsibility for one’s own words and actions, and realizing that you are fully in control of your response to others, is paramount.  This isn’t just some parenting mantra for me; I try to model this behavior for them every day.  But inside my soul I struggle with letting go of the pain I feel when I find myself on the receiving end of an angry remark or a hateful email.

Marcus Aurelius wrote, “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”  Reaching across centuries and oceans, Aurelius is telling me to let it go.  I am working toward heeding this sage advice.

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