Buddhist Reflection: Letting Go


Let go. Why do you cling to pain? There is nothing
you can do about the wrongs of yesterday. It is
not yours to judge. Why hold on to the very thing
which keeps you from hope and love? ~Leo Buscaglia

A  few days ago I had a very humbling conversation with a person I’ve been struggling with for a while. When the conversation ended I was left reflecting on our relationship. It would appear that we’re stuck in a place. Looking backwards more often than we’re willing to move forward, whatever moving forward means for us. This pattern has been a major hindrance for the both of us. Our unwillingness to let go.

I’ve written before that selfishness will destroy any relationship. Second to that is not letting go. We’re human. We aren’t perfect. We cause harm. We make mistakes. We hurt others. That’s our nature. We do these things both intentionally and unintentionally. Most times we try to set right our transgressions. Other times we cannot. All we can do is allow time to heal the damage we’ve caused. Yet no amount of time will ever correct a mistake made if those involved aren’t willing to let it go.

An example of this is my family. We aren’t exactly known for letting things go. There are a lot of grudges and bad feelings between members of my family. It’s to the point where I can barely have a conversation with any of them (grandmother, aunts, uncles, mother, etc) without them bringing up something that the other has done. And I’m not talking about events that have happened recently. I’m talking situations that occurred five, ten years ago. I often hear things like “Well remember when your mother did….?” or “I’m still upset at your aunt for….” My family’s unwillingness to let things go has caused a major division between all of us. More than that it prevents them from healing from the hurt they’ve experienced at the hands of another family member.

Letting go doesn’t just mean forgiving and forgetting that a person has hurt you. It also means letting go of the guilt you feel over causing harm to your loved ones. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own feelings that we forget that we’ve hurt others too. The knowledge that we’ve done so often leaves us with this sinking feeling, as though things will never be ok between you and the person you’ve hurt. Sometimes this is true and sometimes it’s not. Regardless, holding onto that guilt almost insures that things won’t be ok.

Letting go also means letting go of our attachment to the past. Many times we have this desire for things to be “like they used to be”. Not only is this harmful but it’s extremely unrealistic. It’s unrealistic because no one is the same person they were in the past. It’s also unrealistic because if a relationship has had some struggles then there is no way it can go back to being as it was before the damage was done. The harmful thing about this attachment to the past is that it doesn’t allow one to rebuild a relationship based on the present. There is an expectation that things should be as they were and when they aren’t there is an immediate dissatisfaction. In a situation such as this it’s impossible to move forward. On the flip side, it’s impossible to be content with rebuilding a broken relationship when you are always going back to the negative things that occurred in the past.

Not letting go causes suffering, within yourself and with the relationships you have with others.  You can’t expect to rebuild a damaged relationship nor have a healthy one with anyone else while carrying such baggage. A lesson I’ve only began to fully understand. As I mentioned in a previous post, I don’t want to live in the past. There is no wisdom in holding on to it, in holding onto anything for that matter, but most importantly holding onto pain.

The only way to change the past is through the present moment. Anything else can be let go of.


2 thoughts on “Buddhist Reflection: Letting Go

  1. Lakingya R.

    There is the saying you don’t forgive for the other person. You forgive for you. You are the one holding all that in and not living. Not letting go can cause you to become stagnant and lost. The last the you want to realize is that its ten years later and you are still in the same place, doing the same thing, and nursing the same wounds. Let go so that YOU can live and grow.

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