You would be hard-pressed to find another word in the English Language that causes people to sink in their feet, embody a defensive stance, and bellow “NO!” from the depths of their soul like the word “surrender.”
A word like “surrender” carries with it significant meaning, biases, emotions, memories, hopes, fears, and so much more. Its weight is heavy and because of that, its potential as a personal development aid is not realized.
In western society, surrender means to give up, to give in, or to submit to the authority of an opponent. The very word is a point of contention. No one in their right mind wants to surrender. If anything, surrender means that we must fight and fight to the bitter end.
This notion is valid and admirable in the context of overcoming a physical threat or oppressor. God knows this is true across our unified histories, especially in civil and gender rights. AND, we must consider that our transitional response to surrender is applicable to every other circumstance that, at first glance, provides the appearance of a threat.
Most will agree that we are a culture that craves control – some might even say obsessed with the need for control. And what’s interesting is that this isn’t a new phenomenon brought about by the dawn of the digital age. Sure, during this period of history we have the ability to control more aspects of our lives than ever before, yet as a species have always sought to control the uncontrollable.
Strength in Surrender
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” – American Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, “Serenity Prayer”
Many of us avoid conflict at all cost. It’s part of our instinct. We avoid things that will cause us pain. Unfortunately, the avoidance of pain, in many cases, is what diminishes our lives. Plowing through the pain or hiding behind every corner when the pain appears does more harm than good.
Avoiding pain may feel good at the moment, but it will surely play havoc with the future. Facing our challenges equips us with the experiences that allow us to successfully deal with the next event that will surely come.
Yet, there is extraordinary wisdom, clarity, and strength that emerges when we adopt surrender to the challenge instead of avoiding it. We become better versions of ourselves who are more equipped to continue our journey through life and its various challenges.
Given this context, let’s consider another definition of surrender that is more natural in meaning: to not resist. If we could take away the notions of oppression and subjugation from our consciousness, what would it mean to not resist the uncontrollable aspects of our life?
The coronavirus (aka COVID-19) has created an event in world history that many of us could not have imagined outside of science fiction. Overnight, our worlds were turned unrecognizable and we needed to learn how to respond in very short order. We lost complete control as we defend against an invisible threat.
For many, this change is very difficult to deal with. We would rather that things never changed or that they would go back to normal sooner rather than later. As such, we put up a fight against the new reality that we face.
When we fight we exert alot of energy. We often believe that the fight is the only option that we have. But what if we took a fighting stance of surrender instead?
Did you see what I just did there? I took what is typically looked at as a weakness, and I gave it power and a sense of control by using the word and imagery of a defiant, confident, stance.
But what would happen if we were to truly take a stance of surrender? Instead of working against the energy, what if we flowed with it? What if we harmonized our efforts with the energy?
Imagine that you are in a long hallway filled with a hundred open doors. When you walk through them you are met with no resistance. But what happens when you approach a closed door?
You have two choices: fight to open the door or pause, reflect, and respond to what is unfolding in a controlled manner. To surrender means to relax our rigid agendas. It is an act of self-realization in the moment.
This doesn’t change your identity or your goals. If you are an activist, visionary, teacher, or change agent, you are still those identities; and with humility, you will begin to understand you have little control in the enormity of your efforts.
By surrendering to this realization, you free up energy otherwise used to fight against the uncontrollable. That energy can then be used to further the efforts of your agenda, like discovering new ways to achieve your goals. Or how to make the best use of social distancing amidst our COVID-19 response.
Funny enough, this puts you back in control.
For many of you who read this, it sounds impossible to do. “It might work for some but it won’t work for me!” What’s interesting is in order to be truly human and have real human relationships means you have encountered surrender more often than you realize.
Everything that truly matters in life, like inspiring relationships, requires leaps of faith and surrender. In fact, faith is another word for surrender. Without leaps of surrender, there would be no love. There would be no creativity, learning, the accomplishment of our goals, and there would be no connection to God.
Surrender is more common than we recognize.
As we embark on this next week, take a moment to think about what you are currently resisting that, if you surrendered instead, might open up a world of opportunity for you. Consider what fighting is costing you in terms of time, energy, relationship, and opportunities.