Daily Meditations

Letting Go, Forgiveness, and Paradox

What does letting go on the practical level tell us? Letting go is different than denying or repressing. To let go of something is to admit it. You have to own it. Letting go is different than turning it against yourself; different than projecting it onto others. Letting go means that the denied, repressed, rejected parts of yourself, which are nonetheless true, are seen for what they are; but you refuse to turn them against yourself or against others. This is not denial or pretend, but actual transformation.

The religious word for this letting go is forgiveness. You see the imperfect moment for what it is, and you hand it over to God. You refuse to let any negative storyline or self-serving agenda define your life. This is a very, very different way of living; it implies that you see your mistakes, your dark side, but you do not identify with either your superiority or your inferiority.

Forgiveness is of one piece. Those who give it can also receive it. Those who receive it can pass forgiveness on. You are a conduit, and your only job is not to stop the flow. What comes around will also go around. The art of letting go is really the secret of happiness and freedom.

~Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Art of Letting Go (CD)


As a Christian, I think that …what Jesus was doing on the cross…. was holding all the pain of the world, at least symbolically or archetypically; and though the world had come to hate Jesus, he refused to hate back.

Jesus revealed to us how to bear the pain of the world instead of handing on the pain to those around us. When you stop resisting suffering, when you can really do something so foolish as to welcome the pain, it leads you into a broad and spacious place where you live out of the abundance of Divine Love. I can’t promise you it will leave that quickly or that easily. To forgive is not the same as to forget.

Forgiveness has the power to lead you to your [Image and Likeness] in God. Because the hurts of life are so great, you cannot let go of the pain on your own. At that point, you need to draw from a Larger Source. What you are doing with forgiveness is changing your egoic investment in your own painful story—which too often has become your ticket, and sometimes your very identity. Forgiveness is one of the most radically free things a human being can do. When we forgive, we have to let go of our own feelings, our own ego, our own offended identity, and find our identity at a completely different level—the divine level. I even wonder if it is possible to know God at all—outside of the mystery of forgiveness (Luke 1:77).

~Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Art of Letting Go (CD)


God is the only one we can surrender to without losing ourselves. It’s a paradox. I am increasingly convinced that all true spirituality has the character of paradox to it, precisely because it is always holding together the whole of reality, which is always “Both/And.” Everything except God is both attractive and non-attractive, light and darkness, passing and eternal, life and death. There are really no exceptions.

A paradox is something that appears to be a contradiction, but from another perspective is not a contradiction at all. Paradox admits that every profound truth is countered by another, and usually less flattering, profound truth.

You and I are living paradoxes, which everybody except ourselves sees. If you can hold and forgive the contradictions within yourself, you can normally do it everywhere else, too.

~Adapted from Richard Rohr, Holding the Tension: The Power of Paradox