Give Up to Take Up

We've all had times when our hands were so full we couldn't carry any more until we put some things down.  Similarly, when your brain is full of limiting and negative ideas and beliefs about yourself and the world there may be little room to take on new and better ones to influence you in a more positive direction.

This is where the phrase "give up to take up" comes in. It's often necessary to sacrifice a limiting belief, goal or idea you've held onto for a long time in order to gain the benefit of a truly better way of life. As I wrote in one of my first posts:

The words “sacred” and “sacrifice” share the same root. Many moments in life can be special, but it takes significant loss for something to be sacred. Repeat: nothing is sacred without sacrifice. I think this is important to remember when a person is giving up something meaningful to them, including something destructive like an addiction. It means that a conscious choice to experience the pain of loss is a sacred act.

The phrase "give up to take up" works just as well in reverse: "take up to give up." Less of any one quality is more of another one. You may take up exercise to give up being overweight, take up a hobby to give up boredom, or take up a volunteer activity to give up being excessively focused on yourself. The list is endless.

This brings to mind the old saying that "all goodbyes are hellos." Anything that departs from your life makes room for something else to enter. You may not be able to recognize the value of what you are gaining by losing, especially if you are in a position to give up reassuring safeguards like certainty, security, strength or comfort. But so often in life we are able to look back and recognize that losing something we considered important opened us up in unexpected ways for growth, wisdom, humility and compassion. As the 13th century poet Rumi wisely observed, "some demolitions are renovations."

If there's some belief or habit in your life you want to give up, what discipline are you willing to take up to replace it?  If there's a positive benefit you want to bring into your life, what sacrifice do you consider worthy to make in order to achieve it?  What are you willing to both give up and take up?  You always have some choice in the matter that nobody can make but you.


I'm Bill Herring, LCSW, CSAT, an Atlanta counselor and psychotherapist who has specialized training and experience helping people replace problematic forms of sexual behavior with healthier ways of living.