Perhaps you will agree that the hardest decision in all of life that we face is when to hold on and when to let go. Alongside that decision is the what question: what should we hold on to and what should we let go of?
As I review the year of 2015, it seems there is much that I really need to let go of if I hope to indeed have a Happy New Year. A few pounds mostly in my mid-section serve as only a single example. This past year started well in that direction but ended with a feast of too many delicious fat grams, calories, and butt-sitting. But worse than this in my own mind is the fear I have carried in my gut of what was wrong with my own country, the USA, in 2015. Or my fear of what “the people of earth” in general are doing that seems all too crazy in my own opinion.
I’d like to shed the heavy weight of these social fears, both national and global, in my own mind. I’d like to let go of them in 2016. I’d like to lose the fears I accumulated from this past year’s events as reported in both private and public media.
But then again, I’m more inclined by appetite to hold on. And to carry into 2016 my fear of what this world is coming to. What the nation is coming to. What the church is coming to. What the human race seems to be coming to.
And so I must choose. To hold on or to let go?
Back in the year 1990, about mid-way in my career as a psychotherapist, I met a couple of fellow MSW’s whose clinic in Milwaukee had developed a practice-theory known as Solution Focused Therapy. Steve De Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg were husband and wife, and together they mastered the art of asking what one might call solution focused questions of their clients in counseling, beginning with: “What are you doing now that you will need to continue doing in the future?” Berg, a Korean-American master of the martial arts, invariably caught her problem focused clients off guard with this question. For couples in therapy for marital problems, the question of “what is your spouse doing now that will need to continue being done in the future?” was equally disarming. Yet, the purpose of such an opening inquiry was to note that we humans can only build upon our strengths. We can only change when we have the strength to change. We can only have the strength to let go when we first have some strength to hold on to. That was the explicit mantra of the Solution-Focused approach to helping people through psychotherapy.
We can only let go if we first have something to hold on to. Our human strength comes from holding on. And from that strength, we can only then let go of our weaknesses.
As I face 2016 with a glance into 2015’s rear-view mirror, I see a mix of my own strengths and weaknesses. I see my weaknesses right away, those heavy pounds and fears I’d like to shed; yet, on second glance I also see some heavy strengths that I’d like to carry forward into the New Year. My ability to love God and to love others, even those different from me, is a strength I will need to continue in 2016. I see it from 2015 as I worked at giving material and emotional support to others in need. And given the choice I am – aren’t we all? — given as this old year gives way to the new, I will choose to continue loving God and neighbor to the best of my ability.
In the Bible’s New Testament, we read these words in I John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
We can only let go of fear if we have love to hold on to. Where other people are concerned, whether in our world, nation, neighborhood, or even our own home, we cannot muster the strength it takes to let go of our fears until we first hold onto our ability to love these same “other” people. We get that ability from God’s own Jesus-love of us as His “other” people. That is where our strength will come from in 2016. And with that strength, with that solution that is greater than any problem, we can let go of any weakness as we so choose. This is why I will never be able to let go of fear unless I first choose holding on to my ability to love others as God has loved me.
Which leads me to this question on the verge of another new year: What will you resolve to hold onto in 2016? What will you resolve to continue doing then that you have done in 2015? Just a hunch on my part, but if you and I will work at successfully doing THAT new year’s resolution first, we will surely have the strength to actually complete any “letting go” resolution we then choose to add.