“Giving ‘Up’ or ‘In'”

“I give up,” I screamed to my older brother with my arm twisted around my back so my seven-year-old life could continue a little while longer. The other release word was “uncle” which I still don’t understand since “aunt” could have served the same purpose.

“Giving up.” Americans can be deported saying those two simple words. They are words conveying that something is happening and you really, truly want it to stop. “Giving up” on an important homework assignment means either laziness or not taking right notes in class.

“Giving up” can also be a hopeful abandonment from something out of your control or discontinuing what you’ve been doing. There’s a relieving exhale to “giving up” as though saying or thinking those two words make it magically disappear. Saying those two words in a gangster film spells your imminent death; without a funeral reception but lots of cement.

Two words that spell expectant release appears to release you from you. You feel that the consequences are no longer within your power so you, “Give up.” It’s over in its intention. The policeman quickly arrests you because you said those two words.


Change “up” to “in” and see what changes. Two letters. Those two letters redefine your perception and participation. “Giving up” seemingly separates you from something no longer needed but once was. “In,” does not separate you but affords a yielding, a reluctant consent, a complying. A recurring regret? An unwritten apology letter? That look you ignored from her that may have led to marriage? That setback years ago that lingered back in your mind after the first drink.

The “up” word is foolishly used to free you by declaring that this chapter has ended and it’s now on to the next; with your involvement restored, of course. The “in” word moves and takes you from one place to another. Can we ever “give up” anything? Can we ever be no longer responsible for ourselves or our situations? Or, can we “give in” because a situation or predicament needs our attention and now it has it. Nothing is learned by “up”ing out. “In” makes your next life’s chapter worth reading.

Amid all the aches and pain that age heaps on us, the one absolute great loss is – you wouldn’t believe it – driving a car. “I give up,” says the ninety-year-old mom to her concerned children as she hands over the keys. Whether it’s the control over a machine (soon to be changing) or the motion or freedom of movement, I’ll never know, but the loss is severe. Aches and pains are accepted as the old get older, but the car? (There’s a motorized cart for those who need it in a retirement home, but that also includes a driver’s test! Those hallway turns can be dangerous.)

Alcoholics are to “give up” to a higher power as though it’s now “its” responsibility, however, defined, and you’re a mere responder. Those divorcing feel the same way, but there are still three kids sleeping upstairs. Reflect back on your own life and wonder if an “up” should have been an “in.” And, was it ever an “up.”

“I give in to alcohol abuse and want to partner with my higher power.”
“I loved you once, and still do in some ways, and we have three children to care for.”

That’s all “in” talk.

Even your last breath is an “in.” I “give in” to life, no matter my age, but I will never, ever “give up.” Just say “auntie.”


“Chiseled Grace,”
Fr. Joe’s newest book on Amazon.


About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com. Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on Amazon.com.
This entry was posted in Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.