A while back I was walking with our dog Bandit in town and as I turned a corner, I saw a gentleman and his two dogs jogging toward us. Experience has taught me to never assume people have trained their dogs to behave well in public so I tend to err on the side of caution. Bandit and I stepped off to a side street giving about a ten-yard berth. I had Bandit sit so the man and his dogs could have plenty of space between us. As they passed by one of his dogs slipped out of its collar, ran straight at Bandit, leaped on him and started a fight. I knew better than to get in the middle of them, and that I had to let go of the leash or I would be dragged into the dog fight. Fortunately, it didn’t last long, the second dog wasn’t aggressive and stayed on leash while their human ran over and threw himself on top of the aggressive dog pinning it to the ground. Bandit and I made a clean break without serious injury.
There are times when you must let go or be dragged.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find myself hanging on to things far beyond the point I ever should have and wonder why I have skid marks and scars to show for it. . I have identified four areas where I have found it beneficial to drop the rope.
I have let go of my need to be right.
The story is told of a psychiatrist of a mental hospital that asked each of the residents if they would rather be right or be free. Every single patient replied they would rather be right. I totally get that, I used to wear self-righteousness like a second skin. When I found myself clanging to that sort of thinking I wasn’t in a sound place mentally nor was I free. Unfortunately, when I had to be right at all costs, it meant someone else had to be wrong. It was either black or white and much of the time I found what I was hanging so tightly to was everyone else’s flaws unable to see my own. In fact, the need to be right, which is the evil twin of perfectionism, was one of the most damaging aspects of how I used to live my life. I thought if I wasn’t right, I was somehow flawed which my sick mind equated with imperfection. My goodness I sure didn’t want you to see that!
Luckily, today I don’t have to live that way. I can let go of my need to be right and listen to other points of view determining when it is appropriate to stand my ground based on God’s principles or to be able to admit I am off base. Okay, admit when I am wrong. How does that taste you might ask? Actually, pretty darn sweet because I am able to admit I am wrong! Today, with God’s help, I can see I confused the need to be right at all costs with something good, standing in God’s truth respectfully and in love or admitting I am wrong, even when it makes me or others uncomfortable. And it does make others uncomfortable when someone willingly admits they are wrong. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “It is for freedom that Christ set us free. “ Today I would much rather be wrong and be free through Christ than right in my own eyes. Oh, and did I mention it’s much easier to get on with folks when you don’t have a raging need to be right or perfect? Most of the time I live quite comfortably in my skin whether I am right or wrong.
I have let go of my need to sit wrapped up in a warm blanket of self-pity.
What a magnificent martyr I used to be. I remember the miserable old days feeling oh so sorry for myself because other people weren’t doing my will. I handed over much of my power to other people while squandering the moments God had given me in constant worry over many things which never happened. Mired deep in the manure pile of poor me’s I robbed myself of the joy of living. What I came to find out is the best medicine for this ugly state of mind is an attitude of gratitude.
Being grateful is a powerful tool in my toolbox of life these days. As Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Thessalonica we do would well to: a) Be joyful always. Which is a Herculean task in itself! May I remind you the word always is an absolute. I encourage you to try being joyful always for just a day. Imagine the possibilities. b) Pray without ceasing. That alone would not only be life changing but world changing if we are praying for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. c) Give thanks in all circumstances. Gulp. I double dog dare you to try it out for a week. What a game changer! Why? Paul tells us because this is God’s will for us in Jesus Christ!
God’s will for us is to be joyful, prayerful and grateful which will cure a bad case of poor me in no time flat.
I have let go of resentment.
Self-pity and resentment are two adjoining rooms in my heart, with a door that opens from one right into the other. Self-pity always, yes always, leads to resentment. The word resentment has a root that means to feel again which is exactly what happens. When we are struck in self-pity, we feel again what someone may have (real or perceived) done to us which chains us to the past and sets us up yet again for resentment. Both self-pity and resentment want to take up a permanent residence ,with a mailing address in my heart. Not good. Not good. One flows so smoothly right into the other, if I let go of feeling sorry for myself and develop gratitude, I have a much easier time letting go of the hardness in my heart for both my past sins and the wrongs done to me by others. Through the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, I can then become willing to pray for others (praying for my enemies as Christ commands) which thaws the icy hatred, anger and fear freezing up my heart. Which opens the door for me to step out of those adjoining rooms and into forgiveness.
I have let go of unforgiveness.
Being willing to recognize unforgiveness in myself is one of the hardest things to let go of. I tend to want to justify my right to not forgive the behavior of other people, glossing over, of course my own flaws. The need to be right, self-pity and resentment all drag me to the doorstep of the house of unforgiveness. Which is not a place a follower of Christ wants to live. Not often do we hear Jesus defend quid pro quo behavior but this is one the places he does. Because he forgives us if we ask Him to!
Jesus says if we want to be forgiven by God for our sins we must – not perhaps, not maybe – we must forgive others.
Corrie Ten Boom tells the haunting story of speaking on forgiveness to the German people post World War II . She herself was asked for forgiveness by a prison guard from the concentration camp she and her sister were held prisoner in. Her sister Betsy died in Ravensbruck at the hand of this man and other guards. Corrie told that in her heart she hated him, but at the same instant prayed to Jesus to help her to forgive him. Her hand shot out and the moment she gripped his forgiveness came. It came suddenly, was genuine – and of God. Her forgiveness set them both free from the bondage of hatred. And it happens whenever we are willing to let go and let God.
Our willingness to seek joy, to pray and be thankful coupled with forgiving both ourselves and others allows God to leap on what attacks us, our self-righteousness, self-pity, resentment and unforgiveness, pinning them to the ground for us so we can make a clean break through Christ’s finished work on the cross without serious injury to our hearts, souls and our eternity..
Let go, or be dragged.
Be joy filled always,