Love is letting go.
Love can mean holding on. Fidelity. Commitment. Steadiness. Persistence.
But love is often letting go.
Control often feels like the way to love. But my experience tells me, in the end, control is not the way to love. Control dismisses, demeans, misdirects, imposes, and stifles. Love is letting go.
Love is letting go of my expectations for you. Letting go of my delusion that because I feel care for you, I must indisputably be doing what’s best for you. Love is more self-critical and adaptable than that. Love is letting go of my plan for your life. Letting you be as you are, not as I wish you were, or how, out of entitlement, I feel you should be, as though you owe it to me.
Love is letting go of my control over your process. Letting you react. Letting you overreact. Letting you underreact. Love is letting go of my impulse to control the conversation, even if I think I’m protecting you. I may just be trying to protect myself, and needlessly.
Love is letting go of over-regulating what you are allowed to say to me. It’s asking you how you feel and then letting you say it, even if I don’t like what you feel or say. Love discerningly sets boundaries, but to protect me from your cruelty, not to protect my rickety ego.
Love is letting go of my belief in my infallibility. Letting go of my denial, my belief that I’m a person who couldn’t have said or done that hurtful thing. My belief that my actions must be good because my intentions were good. Love does not let go of self-worth and dignity. Love does let go of image, a construct not really worth the misappropriated energy I give it.
Love is letting go of hatred. But still never condoning injustice. Never siding with bullies. Never prioritizing forgiveness of abusers over the protection of victims. Never softening on naming what’s cruel and horrible and evil. But letting go of hatred. Not for your sake, but for mine. And for the sake of everyone else who will benefit from a less resentful me.
Love is letting go of being liked by you. Instead, love is doing what is right, what’s most helpful, what’s most virtuous, what my convictions dictate, what my instincts tell me, what wise others would advise, and letting these things—rightness, helpfulness, virtue, conviction, instinct, and the wisdom of others—be my guides. Seeking your favor is a futile quest. Because it’s never enough, and people are fickle and complicated, like me. You’ll never give me what my fragility thinks it needs. Though you might give me something better.
Love is letting go of what I have or think I deserve. My sense of entitlement is blinding. I fuss when one of the thousand things I think I deserve is taken away, even though many people do not have a thousand things, but only a hundred things, or maybe just four or five things. Love is stepping down, standing aside. Love is letting go of what’s mine and seeing what’s ours. And then letting go when I’m holding on to too much of what is ours.
I used to think God was in control. Then life experience told me that God is not in control, as I wrote shortly after the 2016 election. Maybe God could be in control but, out of love, releases control. Lets go. God entices, persuades, lures, inspires, nudges, whispers, shouts, pleads, protects, models—but does not control.
God lets go of creation, letting it stumble and find its way, even as God holds it in Her arms, attentively and responsively caring for it.
God lets go of Jesus, even as He aches for the Son of God’s pain, experiencing authentic suffering, no buffer of divine privilege to lessen the anguish.
God lets go of me, even as God remains persuasively and providentially present, not abandoning but not overpowering either.
Love is letting go. So I’ll try.