These days renunciation gets a bad rap. People think of it as deprivation.

This could not be further from the truth.

Rather than deprivation, renunciation is liberation.

It is liberation from compulsively grasping for something we want out of greed, even when the harm outweighs the benefit.

And it is liberation from compulsively running from discomfort out of aversion, even when enduring discomfort is necessary to address problems that threaten us.

Merriam Webster defines “renounce” as giving up or refusing, “usually by formal declaration.”

In our personal lives, what we refuse to do is to harm life if at all possible. That includes harm to others and us. It also includes not neglecting ourselves or those around us. We give up acting on compulsions driven by greed or fear when we see that they cause harm.

One prerequisite to renunciation is seeing the root problem clearly. Seeing the harm that grasping and avoiding causes. Anticipating the suffering, we give up a thought or behavior that harms anyone by inciting fear or greed in our hearts. We see how fear begets fleeing and greed begets grasping, compulsively, regardless of the consequences. In seeing the compulsion, the compulsion wanes. Seeing allows for renunciation of greed and aversion. This is liberating. Seeing frees us to love.

Another prerequisite for renunciation is a reverence for Life. To renounce is to perform an act of worship to Life. It is a formal dedication to a no-harm way of being, seeing, and doing.

Part of our dedication to Life is to the principle of mutuality. We are one. We tend lovingly together to the One that we are a part of. That means to each other. It means also that we let go of the greed and fear that separate us from others. We cannot love unless we do this. When we are not compelled by fear or greed, we are liberated to love.

Thus renunciation is a choice to liberate ourselves from compulsive grasping and aversion. It is a thoughtful, dedicated act of love out of a dedication to Love.

Renunciation is central to the joy of healing and recovery. This is because renunciation of harm minimizes the pain we inflict upon ourselves and others through addicting or other destructive behaviors borne of grasping or aversion. It protects against future pain by tending to problems now rather than turning our backs on them. This includes personal problems, family problems, and social problems like social injustice or environmental harm.

Once we have renounced harming, how do we minimize harm?

First, by wanting to. We need to wake up to the miracle of our existence so that we feel reverence for something sacred—us. We also wake up to the miracle of life all around us. With reverence comes the urge to cherish. When we wake up, we also experience our interdependence. We connect with others and become one. Our sphere of loving awareness and concern expands. Seeing the miracle of Life fuels the renunciation of harm through our reverence for Life.

Second, we practice mindfulness. We pay close attention with loving awareness to this one, timeless moment. We look and listen. Thus we see and hear. We see clearly in the moment how we are harming ourselves or others. When we see it, we stop. It is reflexive. It is natural. It is in our nature to not harm ourselves or those we care for. We see the cravings and compulsions of our addictions and bad habits and we let go of them out of love. Renunciation is a choice to let go of our compulsions out of love.

Renunciation is key to stress management, for it is only through renunciation that we can live a simple, love-based life of balance.

Gandhi once said, “renounce and rejoice.” Renounce greed and aversion as you see them arise within you. Then you will be free to devote yourself to the business of enhancing and savoring Life.

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