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Giving Up vs. Giving In: Is There A Difference?

Let’s expand a little bit on the idea of acceptance that I wrote about in a recent post. In that article, I talked about how important it is to accept the reality of the adversity you may be facing.learning to let go

Now let’s talk about the aspect of acceptance that has to do with letting go. Many times when I talk about letting go, I can see people’s eyes start to roll back in their heads.

“Oh great, I’ve fought and fought to keep my house from going into foreclosure, and now she wants me to give up?”

Herein lies the common misunderstanding: letting go is not so much about giving up as it is about giving in. It’s not about just standing by, doing nothing, as your house goes into foreclosure. But it is about giving in to the reality of your current situation and letting go of judgments and expectations you might have about the outcome.

This isn’t easy.

Especially when it comes to something as precious as your house, a relationship, or particular goals you have. The trick is to be able to work toward your goals or out of a difficult situation without being completely locked into just one result being acceptable.

Learning the letting go component of acceptance is a practice, and a life-long one at that. However, once you have started down the path of letting go of your attachment to the outcome of a situation, you will experience a peace and freedom that you didn’t think was possible.

The Art of Giving In

Let me quote two of my colleagues to illustrate this idea further. The first writing is from the blog of Doug Toft, a wise and gentle writer and editor. In his post, Wear the World as a Loose Garment, he talks about letting go of having requirements in our lives:

What would be it be like to wake up in the morning and have no requirements? Perhaps this is what the spiritual masters meant by living without attachment.

This does not mean being unloving. In fact, we might be more loving when we don’t require other people to rigidly conform to our expectations.

Nor does this mean being inactive. We can still participate in the world, and even work hard, while living without attachment. The key is to discover the rewards that are inherent in a task and let go of the ultimate result—which is usually beyond our control anyway.

“Do everything with a mind that lets go,” said meditation teacher Ajahn Chah. “Don’t accept praise or gain or anything else. If you let go a little you will have a little peace; if you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace; if you let go completely you will have complete peace.”

That’s the benefit of wearing the world as a loose garment.

Notice how Doug writes of being active in the world, yet not being emotionally attached to the outcome of whatever task we are doing. Again, it isn’t that you don’t care about what you are doing or experiencing, it’s that you are able to give in and let go of the fierce attachment to one particular result.

The Mathematics of Surrender

Finally, I leave you withe mathematics of surrenderth a poem about this very topic of letting go. My friend and colleague, Martha Clark Scala refers to it as surrender in her lovely poem, The Mathematics of Surrender.

The Mathematics of Surrender
It’s not about giving up,
not about defeat.
If you insist on an equation,
embrace your limited impact on outcome,
subtract old beliefs that you should be able to fix it,
add willingness to let others meet their fate.
Divide this by two, as in yin and yang,
right and wrong,
good and bad.
Let it multiply until
all things are equal.
© Martha Clark Scala, 2007


Tell me your thoughts on the ideas of letting go and giving in rather than giving up.

Giving Up vs. Giving In: Is There A Difference?

Bobbi Emel, MFT

Psychotherapist Bobbi Emel specializes in helping people face life’s significant challenges and regain their resiliency. In addition to seeing clients in her private practice, Bobbi is a well-regarded speaker and writer. Check out her other writing at The Bounce Blog.

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APA Reference
Emel, B. (2012). Giving Up vs. Giving In: Is There A Difference?. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 28, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Jan 2012
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