Detachment: a “dirty word” that promises freedom

What feelings come up when you read the following two words:

  • Obedience
  • Detachment

Are your feelings positive or negative?

Are these words to be avoided at all costs or embraced?

Do these words hinder your freedom or enhance it?

In a later post I will deal with obedience, one of the most freeing words in the entire English language.

Today I will deal with detachment because I finally found out what it means.

Detachment can strike fear into the hearts of those pursuing an authentic spiritual life. It means walking away and letting go.

What do I have to give up?

Will I have to watch less TV, skip that beer or ice cream, put aside dreams of a tropical winter get-away in order to instead travel to snowbound Buffalo to visit elderly parents?

Will I have to give up something, or someone I dearly love?

What will I have to sacrifice?

Detachment in part means sacrifice and both words have a negative connotation in this age of you-can-have-it-all.

And there’s more to sacrifice than giving up time, money and material items. There are feelings inside of us that need to be sacrificed too.

That sacrifice is known as self-control.

Thud. Another word that stirs up a negative connotations.

In this age of exposing ourselves on Facebook and Twitter, self-control has fallen by the wayside.

When we feel bad, we show it. Why hide it? We not only show it, we indulge in it. We feel entitled to wallow in it. Hell, we feel like crap so why not just let it take over?

At some point you long to escape. Escape, as you know, comes about in many unhealthy, even deadly forms. Just ask Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and Anna Nicole Smith.

Oh that’s right. We can’t.

What does all this have to do with detachment? Here’s how.

And I only just learned this in the last few days.

On Saturday we said goodbye to our 26 year-old son. He is moving from his place near our home in central MA to Brooklyn, NY to explore new options in his life. It’s only four hours away but it might as well be on the other side of this planet to this mother’s heart.

I urged him to go.

Heck, I was the main cheerleader. And I was bound and determined not to lose it in front of him.

So just before the big goodbye, I stole away to the bathroom in his house and begged God to help me put a lid on my emotions.

The response was an impulse to pray the Hail Mary.

With that first of many Hail Mary’s I recalled that the Mother of Jesus had to endure such a goodbye too. She would understand and she would listen to me.

I then rifled through my pocketbook and found my rosary ring. I put it in my pocket and fingered it, continuing to pray.

And when it came time to say goodbye, I only cried a little.

We exchanged warm hugs and a few tears flowed but I held it together.

I realized at that moment that asking God to intervene, He stepped in between my son and myself, providing that little bit of detachment that allowed me to keep a lid on my emotions.

Later on in the privacy of my kitchen, I had my cry.

Detachment saved me from embarrassment, not only for myself, but for my son and everyone else that was there when we exchanged goodbyes.


And now I am working on building on that detachment.

The pain of saying goodbye is not unlike grief and it can become a black hole, sucking you in and smothering the life out of you.

The natural inclination is to go towards that black hole.

The smart thing to do is to step back.

I work up this morning filled with pain over the goodbye. But I washed up, went to Sunday mass, did the food shopping and spent the day with my husband.

I clung to God and made a deliberate effort to tell that black hole I wasn’t going to be sucked in.

It wasn’t easy.

A lot of the time I just wanted to lay down on my bed and go to sleep.

The lesson of yesterday’s goodbye and the taste of freedom from that small bit of detachment gave me the impetus to keep pursuing it.

I sacrificed the urge to give in to the pain.

Using self-control, I deliberately turned away from pain of the past and fixed my gaze upon the future.

Little things like a medium Dunkin’ Donuts mocha ice coffee helped in the cause.

God teaches us detachment for a reason.

He wants to set us free. I feel like I have discovered a most precious secret.

And so I bid my son a bittersweet farewell, knowing it’s for the best and wishing him many blessings in his journey.

I have already found mine.

Click to Tweet & Share: Saying goodbye to our son hurt but taught me something new: turning to God, I learned to walk away & not lose it.

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Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion


Forget it and move on

The associate pastor at my parish of St. Luke the Evangelist, Fr. Edwin Gomez, gives wonderful homilies. From time to time I’d like to share them with you. This is  his homily  from Sunday, August 19, 2012, the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time on the liturgical calendar.

The readings used for that week were Proverbs 9:1-6, Psalm 34:2-7, Ephesians 5:15-20, John 6:51-58.

Fr. Edwin reminds us of something we often forget. He begins with a story …

An 80-year-old couple was having a problem remembering things; they decided to start writing things down and make notes to help each other remember.

One night while watching TV, the old man got up from his chair and his wife asks, “Where are you going?”

He replies, “To the kitchen.”

She asks, “Will you get me a bowl of ice cream?”

He replies, “Sure.”

She then asks him, “Don’t you think you should write it down so you can remember it?”

He says, “No, I can remember that.”

She then says, “Well, I also would like some strawberries on top. You had better write that down ‘cause I know you’ll forget that.”

He says, “I can remember that, you want a bowl of ice cream with strawberries.”

She replies, “Well, I also would like whip cream on top. I know you will forget that so you better write it down.”

With irritation in his voice, he says, “I don’t need to write that down, I can remember that.”

He then went into the kitchen. After about 20 minutes he returns from the kitchen and hands her a plate of bacon and eggs. She stares at the plate for a moment and says, “You forgot my toast.”

Forgetful and Very Wise at the same time. Ha!

“Brothers and sisters: watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15) To be wise is the invitation. And today I am going to share with you my greatest discovery…I have found the way to become really wise.


In order to be wise you have to be forgetful as God is forgetful. You have to imitate God’s forgetfulness.

Surprised? Let me explain.

Think about His mercy. He forgives you and unlike humans, He forgets.

He holds no bitterness, no resentments, no anger against you for anything you have done in the past.

The past is history, the future is a mystery, so live in the present with no fear of recrimination or punishment.

You cannot be wise unless you have been in some kind of interpersonal, interactive relationship with God. Only will you know that God is compassionate, that He will let you start over again, every day fresh and new.

Good News: God forgives anyone who is willing to be forgiven. Willingness is the key here … that is the only requirement to becoming wise.

And this is the bread from heaven. (“I am the living bread that came down from heaven…” Gospel of John, 5:51)

This is what we need to learn to eat. To eat the life of God.

And if you do not have a life with God, an hour in church on Sunday is probably not going to make up for you. If you are not living with your merciful and “forgetful” friend all week, an hour during the weekend does not create a friendship.

That friendship has to be pursued and nurtured morning, afternoon and night as with every true friend that you have.

And then, you learn how to imitate God’s love and how to be wise, because you know what God is like. God is El Amigo, is a companion, is someone who loves you more than you love yourself, who forgives you more easily than you even know how to forgive yourself.

Today is a new day, a day in your journey to meet the friend, to meet the “forgetful” God. The only way to become wise is to imitate God, the One who loves you just the way you are, the One who is forgetful and forgiving about your past and loves you.

“A wise man once sat before an audience and cracked a joke … all of them laughed like crazy. After a moment he cracked the same joke again, and fewer people laughed … he cracked the same joke once again and no one laughed. Then he smiled and said ‘If you can’t laugh at the same joke again and again, then why do you keep crying over the same thing over and over again?’”

Forget the past and move on.

“Loving God, help us to imitate you … help us to forgive and forget as You forgive and forget. Amen.”

Fr. Edwin Gomez, former associate pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish, Westborough, MA

Click to Tweet & Share: Forget about it! God’s way of forgetfulness is the truest love of all

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Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion