Simplicity and letting go

I mentioned earlier this week the discussion at Sunday’s worship sharing about simplicity. Afterwards, one of the members of the worship group shared the following quote (from Inward/Outward) and suggested that using the word “simplicity” in place of the word “poverty.”

“The true rule of poverty consists in giving up those things which enchain the spirit, divide its interests, and deflect it on its road to God–whether these things be riches, habits, religious observances, friends, interests, distastes, or desires–not in mere outward destitution for its own sake. It is attitude, not act, that matters; self-denudation would be unnecessary were it not for our inveterate tendency to attribute false value to things the moment they become our own.” –Evelyn Underhill

Simplicity does indeed involve giving up those things that ensnare us and get in our way in our spiritual lives rather than giving things up just for the sake of denying ourselves. In fact, self-denial for its own sake can be a snare in itself.

This quote, however, brings me back to the idea of letting go. I’ve been working through a long process of letting go for some time—letting go of many of my outwardly defining labels, letting go of aspects of the way I understand myself, letting go of masks and illusions, letting go of jobs and activities and relationships that no longer served me, letting go of things, letting go of patterns that were getting in my way. In every case where I have let go of these things that no longer serve me, life has become simpler. It has made room for new growth and for healing.

But I know I still have layers and layers of letting go yet to do. As we talked on Sunday, one person suggested that pride is often the reason that we are hesitant to let go more easily. These things that we cling to form our identity, and our pride makes it hard to let go out of fear of appearing to be less than to others.

I know that this has been true for me in many ways. Much of my letting go process has involved letting go of the world’s usual status symbols in terms of career, social position, and wealth. This has been (and still often is) very hard on my pride. It’s painful and scary and hard to let go of those things, even when I can freely acknowledge that I am happier where I am now than I was then. There is still so much fear that arises around how other people may see me.

As I’m facing another round of simplification and letting go (mostly in attitudes and beliefs but also in physical “stuff”), I am noticing that I am starting to think about what needs to be released in a different way. In the past, most of the things I let go of were things that had become so painful to me that I reached a point that I had to let go of them because they were causing too much pain in some way. The impetus to let go was driven by the instinct for pain reduction and survival. The things that weren’t serving me were easy to identify because they were the sources of the suffering.

Now life is actually pretty good. I still get overwhelmed easily from trying to do too much sometimes, but I am not in the kind of pain that drove earlier rounds of letting go. Rather, I find myself noticing where thoughts, beliefs, stories, patterns, or “stuff” is keeping things are holding me back from being even better. It’s noticing where things are getting in my way from achieving my goals or becoming the person I way to be. It’s no longer about pain avoidance and now about continued improvement.

In some ways, this makes it even harder to identify the problem areas and even harder to let go because the motivation has to come from a deeper place. It takes a greater level of commitment to myself than it did when it felt so imperative to reduce the pain level. It makes me even more aware of how subtle an enemy pride can be. The challenge to my pride in the big things is easy to see and directly address. The challenge to my pride in simply changing my stories and belief systems seems like it should be negligible, but if I dig down, I find that’s still the road block.

I still fear that people will see me differently if I change. Even if the changes are positive ones, what if some people don’t like the changes? What if people tell me the changes are long overdue? What if I find out that the changes are easier to make than I think and I have to face that I’ve been the one holding myself back for all of these years from the person I am meant to be? What if I have to let go of blaming my past and take responsibility for my healing? My pride cringes in fear in my belly even considering those questions.

And that tells me that I must be heading in the right direction.

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.

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6 thoughts on “Simplicity and letting go

    • I know almost nothing of the Quaker virtue of plainness, so I appreciate you providing a source for me to learn more. It will be interesting to see how that does (or doesn’t) fit with my thoughts on simplicity. I always love having something else to consider to round out my view on a topic. Thank you!

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  2. I absolutely love this post and am just finally getting around to tell you so… There is a wonderful book called The Freedom of Simplicity, written by Richard J. Foster. He is a Quaker and an excellent writer. It is one of those books that requires several readings to get the full depth of it, but he addresses so much it is amazing. My pride has always been most own worst enemy. It is what protected me when it felt like nothing else was doing that. Recovering my own sense of adequate has made leveling the pride issue a bit easier. This is a magnificent post!

    • Thanks so much, OneHotMess! Would you believe that the book you mention is currently sitting in my To-Be-Read pile? I may have to move it up higher in the pile now due to your recommendation!

      I love you comment about the way that recovering your sense of adequate has helped with pride. Pride is indeed one of my big faults too. Ironically, self-doubt/low self-esteem is one of my others. They sound like opposites, but I think they are just flip sides of the same coin. Perhaps working on my own sense of adequate would help me with both of them. You’ve given me much to think about here. Thank you!

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