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In 2019, Embrace Letting It Go

by on December 31, 2018 5:00 AM

I was heading south over the holiday break and, following my GPS, ended up on a side road that took me from one interstate road in South Carolina to another.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I passed a very large billboard that said “General Sherman and his Northern Army. Thieves. Arsonists. Terrorists.”

Wait, what?   

Is the person who paid for this billboard designed actually referring to General William Sherman?  The guy from the Civil War? The one from 154 years ago?

Now, that’s what I call holding a grudge.

As I drove on further into South Carolina, I found myself thinking about what it must feel like to hold on to anger that long. None of the people who currently reside in South Carolina or Georgia or any other parts of the South were alive during the Civil War,  including an anonymous guy who put up a billboard. Anger so intense it has been passed down from one generation to another.


The research on anger, stress and negativity of the effects on the various systems of our body is well-documented. From heart issues to obesity to sexual and menstrual dysfunction to gastrointestinal issues, holding on to anger and negative thinking can wreak physical havoc on our bodies. Stress and hate, especially over an extended period of time, are linked to a myriad of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and even psychosis. The long-term effects on our spirit of looking at the world through the lens of anger is harder to document but seems pretty clear. Hate is that which breaks us, individually and collectively.

In this time of renewal and starting fresh with the New Year, setting an intention to “let it go” might benefit all of us.

In yoga, I have heard teachers urge us to let go of that which no longer serves us. Anger, grudges and the stress and negativity that comes with it does not serve us.

A billboard in South Carolina is only one example of what seems to be the powder keg of anger that is defining today’s society. From 24 hour network news to cyberbullying in middle schools, people are angry and are letting others know about it. It is no longer enough to just feel anger or frustration; we have to post it or tweet it or, in some extreme cases, put it on a billboard for the world to see.

Again, if we read the news, we can see it’s eating us alive.

Nothing is safe from attack or anger or hate. Just this past week, the dialogue on numerous websites centered on the boots worn by former First Lady Michelle Obama in a taped interview in comparison to the boots worn by current First Lady Melania Trump on her visit to Iraq to support the troops on Christmas Day. We have collectively sunk to such a low in our anger and hate with politics that we are now using footwear as a reason to attack each other.

Let it go people.

Letting go will make you feel better. Lighter. It will change the way you look at the world. Your health will improve. The lens through which you look at the world will change. Letting go and forgiving isn’t really about the other person or persons, but about freeing ourselves. The energy it takes to hold on to past grievances and to carry the weight of anger and hate not only harms our bodies and our psyches, it prevents us from fully living and enjoying what is happening right now or what is yet to come.

Let it go. Will it matter in a week or a month? In a year? In 150 years?

I remember my Civil War history and read “Gone with the Wind” every summer when I was a teenager, but needed a quick Google check on General William Tecumseh Sherman. In the late fall of 1864, Sherman and the Union Army marched to Georgia through South Carolina after taking Atlanta. Sherman’s orders outlined the “scorched earth” forage tactics that some say changed the way that people fight wars. Historians view Sherman’s effort as the final straw in bringing down the Confederacy and, eventually, the surrender at Appomattox.  The impact and devastation of Sherman’s army was far reaching and evidently, the resentment remains today.

Unfortunately, like many of the wrongs for which we hold grudges, the truth  — and our anger — evolves over time. Civil War scholars, including those from the South, concur that the fact that so many southern structures from that time are still standing suggests the devastation was not as widespread as were the rumors. Similarly, people in towns and cities across the South talk about the aggession of Sherman’s troops against their ancestors and the devastating loss of life and property in places where Sherman’s army never marched. Some believe that the rumors of Sherman’s march in their direction led some to take everything, set fires to what remained and to leave before the Union Army even, if ever, got there. While most agree that there were likely individual troops that took foraging and pillaging to the extreme, the extent of the damage and Sherman’s actual orders and actions have likely become more legend than actual history.

Misinformation. Distortion and acceleration of the facts. Anger and resentment that becomes part of who we are and our identity. What and who will we be without it?  Answer: a whole lot better off.

Holding on to anger from yesterday or last week or last year or even a century ago does not serve you.  For 2019, let it go.


 

 



Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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