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Center for Action and Contemplation

Letting Go of Our Innocence

Friday, August 5, 2022

In this talk, Richard shares about the freedom we gain from “letting go” of any false images of ourselves as totally innocent or pure. We find the courage to be who we are in God and to join God in the flow of grace:

We come to God not by doing it right, but by doing it wrong. And yet the great forgiveness is to forgive ourselves for doing it wrong. That’s probably the hardest forgiveness of all: that I’m not perfect, that I’m not unwounded, I’m not innocent. “One always learns one’s mystery at the price of one’s innocence.” [1] If I want to maintain an image of myself as innocent, superior, righteous, or saved, I can only do that at the cost of truth. I have to reject the mysterious side, the shadow side, the broken side, the unconscious side of almost everything.

The art of letting go really is the way to heaven because when we fall down there to the bottom, we fall on solid ground, the great foundation. . . . On that foundation where we have nothing to prove, nothing to protect, we have met the enemy and the enemy is us. I am who I am who I am, and for some unbelievable reason, that’s what God has chosen to love. . . .

Letting go is different than denying or repressing. To let go of it, we have to admit it. We have to own it. Letting go is different than turning it against our self. Letting go is different than projecting onto others. Letting go means that the denied, repressed, rejected parts of our own self which are nonetheless true are seen for what they are, but not turned against self or against others, so letting go is not denial. It’s not pretend. The religious word for letting go is the word “forgiveness.” This is the positive way to deal with our own woundedness. We see it and we hand it over to God. We hand it over to history. . . .

The mode of weeping, of crying, is different than fixing. It’s different than understanding. That’s why we often cry when we forgive. . . . When we can’t fix it, when we can’t explain it, when we can’t control it, when we can’t even understand it, we can only forgive it. Let go of it, weep over it. It’s a different mode of being. . . .

I can see why forgiveness is almost the heart of the matter, and Jesus’ prerequisite for being forgiven by God is simply to forgive one another. . . . Jesus said we will receive the forgiveness of God to the degree that we can be conduits of forgiveness for one another. In other words, forgiveness is of one piece. Those who give it can receive it. Those who receive it can give it. If we’re in the conduit of love, if we’re in the ocean of mercy, frankly, it’s the only thing that makes sense.


[1] Robertson Davies, Fifth Business (Toronto, ON: Macmillan, 1970), 305.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis (Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2010), CD.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Claudia Retter, Lily Pond (detail), photograph, used with permission. Arthur Allen, Untitled 10 (detail), 2022, photograph, France, used with permission. Claudia Retter, Lake Wale’s Pond (detail), photograph, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge the image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: We see the simplicity of these black and white photos: the lines of the leaves, the focus on just one flower, one stem, one patch of grass. Innocence, in its state of simplicity and grace, is not deluded by a desire for more; it accepts what is.

Story from Our Community:

I listen to children describe their hopes, dreams, and concerns for our Earth and their desire to be part of the change needed for a society of inclusion and love for all. I listen to their aching hearts while breathing in and taking in their worries, and breathing out and handing it all to a God. —Teresita L.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


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