Full Time

There’s a saying in 12-step programs: Let Go and Let God. What exactly does this mean?

Let’s take each phrase separately. Let go is pretty easy to understand. Let’s say there’s a hundred dollar bill that we are both holding on to, having a little tug of war. It happens to be your $100, and you say to me, “Let go!” The message is clear. You want me to stop trying to control your money, take my hands off of it, and back off.

Now suppose I am doing something you don’t like, don’t approve of and don’t want me to do. You try to persuade me to stop. Let’s say I’m eating lots of sugar and you are sure it’s bad for me, makes me fat, damages my immune system and may cause me to have diabetes. You hide the sugar, admonish me on a regular basis, and frown when I order dessert. What do you call your behavior? Helpful and caring, or controlling and manipulative? What if I asked you to “let go” of my behavior and focus on yourself instead?

Here’s where the meaning becomes more valuable. No matter what your intentions, when you focus on the behavior of another adult with the intent to change it, you are trying to control that person. Is this wrong? I believe it is, because you don’t have the right to control that other adult. The other person knows it, resents it and will resist your efforts.

So, letting go is the right thing to do.

This is terribly difficult for most people who have lived their lives in the controlling mode. It’s often known by more acceptable euphemisms, such as helping, reminding, caring, or managing.

The second phrase, Let God, will make the first part easier. If you believe in a Higher Power that everyone has access to, and you agree that this Higher Power has more power than you do, wouldn’t it make sense to allow that Power to change the other person, and for you to back off?

Ah, but here’s the most difficult thing of all. God (who is my Higher Power) doesn’t change the other person as fast as I would like. God isn’t doing His job to suit me. And before you can say Jack Robinson, I take back the problem and start trying to solve it myself, with all the resulting resentment and resistance on the part of the person I am trying to change, and all the frustration on my part because it’s still not happening.

Here’s what you need to know. The only person you can change is… yourself. And that is a full-time job for most of us mortals. So, if you let go and let God where others are concerned, you just may improve yourself.