Letting go is a vitally important 12 step principle, for without our willingness to let go, nothing can change. Step One tells us that we have to let go of what was before so we can enter into what can be; that which will liberate and heal us. Nor is Step One a once and done step. Letting go will get easier with time and practice, but I know for myself that each time I am faced with a new challenge, I have to start over with Step One, admitting my powerlessness to change what already is without God’s help.
Peter Russell, in his book Letting Go Of Nothing, says that letting go (admitting we are powerless) involves not being attached to outcomes. Letting go is all about surrendering our desires, accepting the present and opening ourselves to our Higher Power. I find that Russell’s linking letting go with forgiveness brings me a new understanding of Step One.
I suspect most of us approach letting go as letting go of things, situations, and relationships, but Russell suggests that a deeper kind of letting go relates to our thoughts, self defeating beliefs, points of view, deeply held prejudices, etc. These keep us from moving forward in life as we can get very attached to our expectations, judgments, assumptions, and perceptions about how things should be.
As long as we view life through the lens of white superiority, for instance, we can talk and talk, work and work, try and try, pray and pray, but nothing will change. It is only when we are willing to let go of the defining concept of white supremacy that we will be able to honestly approach the problems such belief systems create. Russell suggests that one way to start the letting go process is to ask ourselves, “Is there another way of seeing this?”
This business of letting go and letting God is a lifetime process for none of us can be enlightened all of the time. Letting go is essentially like gratitude, it is an intentional decision and practice. The more intentional we are about being grateful the more grateful we become. The more frequently we are able to ask ourselves questions such as, “Could there be a better way to approach this?” or “Why do I think my way is better than hers?” the easier it will be to let go of our self limiting thoughts and perceptions.
I am grateful to Peter Russell for the ways he’s linked letting go with the thoughts and belief systems that we all use to shape our emotional responses and the messages we send ourselves. Thanks to him I am looking forward to working Step One, especially as it relates to my thoughts and belief systems. I am excited about letting go of the self limiting messages that are preventing me from letting God work in my life and the life of my loved ones.