Surely one of the most delicate and profound processes of discernment we undertake is understanding when to hold on and when to let go — what we must leave to others and what is our own responsibility to see through to its conclusion.

The failure of humanity to hold fast is very costly. Homelessness, a serious social problem in our time, with rough sleepers beset by complex problems of trauma and addiction in every town, is often triggered by family breakdown. Divorce, remarriage and integration of step-family members all present steep financial and psychological challenges.

A family has its own tribal norms and expectations; severing one, then combining two broken ones is no small endeavour — not least because the individuals concerned all bring their own hurt and loss to the new beginning. Is it any wonder that households disintegrate and young adults end up adrift in the world?

A marriage, a family, are meant to be forever; it’s a deep and costly decision to walk away. Yet abuse, repeated infidelity or problems too deep-seated to overcome, make calling an end to toxic frameworks of relationship sometimes our best damage limitation.

Even where families remain whole, the fledging time of children leaving the nest is not easy to manage with wisdom and grace. Some parents hold on too tightly, wanting to channel their own aspirations through the educational paths, career choices, wedding plans or parenting style of their children.

Other parents let go too abruptly and completely, turning their children out of the house the moment they reach adulthood, believing that throwing people in at the deep end encourages them to swim. It does, of course — but you have to factor in that it causes a certain percentage to drown, as well. Knowing how to support your children yet not interfere is quite an art.

And in our professional pathways and personal development, it’s not always easy to see when something isn’t working and never will; or when, if we hang in there, we shall reap a pleasing harvest. “All things come to those who wait”, is sometimes, but not in every case, true.

Do you find it easier to hold tight or to let go?

• Of the two of us, my husband is usually the one who persists; I’m more inclined to give up, cut loose, wander off. As we take counsel together, we find our way to a balanced course of action. How about you? Who balances your own inclinations to hold on or let go and move on?

• I’ve been surprised to discover how long and slow building up solid professional reputation can be. You have to stick at it, even for decades. And you? What have you found helpful in deciding when to keep going with a business venture or occupational employment, and when to draw a line and try something else?

• Then, how about personal faith? “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life,” says Revelation 2:10. What spiritual crossroads have you encountered? When have you held on despite unpopularity and adversity? And when have you needed to find enough courage to leave behind traditions in which you could no longer believe?

Penelope Wilcock is an author based in East Sussex. Connect with her at