The Spiritual Power Of Quiting

When you’re faced with an insoluble problem do you ever think of quitting? I’m not talking about “That’s it! I quit,” as a general approach to life. I’m talking about something more profound.
If you’re like me, you were raised never to quit. You were trained to push on, regardless of the odds, and finish everything you started. If you couldn’t fix a situation, you’d live with it, no matter how it hurt.

I was raised in a family with favorites and not-favorites, good guys and bad. Roles could switch fast; you had to hustle to keep out of trouble. The roles I chose were “favorite” and “good.” I went through school and did very well, got good jobs, pleased my bosses and generally excelled. I never realized that my life was about playing roles, avoiding the pain of rejection.

Liberation occurs in wondrous and uncomfortable ways. After finishing my master’s in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling, I did an internship at a treatment center for runaway adolescents. It was a rough place serving disturbed kids and their families.

One day, I took a call from an upset parent, handling it according to protocol. When I came back the next day, the phone rang. The same parent was on the line, far more upset. Her child had run away from the center––and she blamed me. Our first conversation had been difficult––this time she lobbed verbal grenades while I tried to dodge. She roasted me.

When the bombardment was over, I had a profound realization: I would never win with her. I couldn’t say, “I’m Sandy Nathan. I’ve gotten straight A’s forever, I’m a superstar. Give me a chance.” No. I was dog excrement to her and would be eternally.

It was shocking––I couldn’t win, no matter how hard I tried. I also understood why her kid ran away. In a hopeless situation, running away is an intelligent choice.

Since then, I’ve learned that the deep knowing that, “I am never going to win here,” is a gift. It comes after I’ve applied every skill and remedy I possess and is a signal to begin withdrawal. Many spiritual teachers talk about “the power of letting go.” My meditation teacher used to say, “Freedom follows renunciation.” When you formally reject or disavow something, you become free. When I say, “I quit!” I refer to the same concepts.

Quitting has two primary steps. First, the mental, “This is no good for me. I quit.” And you walk away, inside at least. Second, the exit strategy. If you’re making a big life change, it may take years to complete your plan. If you walk away from that poisonous situation, your rent or mortgage payments will not change. You need to have a way of covering your expenses lined up before you physically leave. If you’re in an abusive situation, you need to make sure that you’re safe before you leave. Do your homework.

Your connection to the Divine is the most important thing in successful quitting. That connection will sustain you while you go through the physical adjustments and mental permutations of making a major life change. A regimen of spiritual practice is essential. Prayer, meditation, positive thought, giving to your source of spiritual support and living a disciplined life are important while you’re getting ready. They’re crucial when you make your move. Know that you are free, even as you take the first baby steps out of the toxic dump. Keep going and you will have a new life.