Most of us probably remember being in history class as children.
Or maybe you had Social Studies, as it was called at my school. Whatever the name of the class, it taught us about war – likely with a focus on the Civil War here in America. We learned that those who surrendered were the weaker side. They were the “losers.”
Do you have any memories of looking at old images of soldiers?
Did you see those who gave up as weak?
What if, sometimes, giving up was actually being strong?
What if surrender was actually a sign of power? And what if you actually felt freer and happier by surrendering – an act which you were taught was for the losing side?
There are times when giving up is healthier than being a martyr.
There’s a memory that immediately comes to my mind in relation to this bit of hard-earned wisdom. It is of a job that I had when I was much younger, and it was a toxic situation for me: one of my coworkers was unkind, nasty, and a bully – but not to anyone else…just to me. She would not talk directly to me, but spoke quite poorly of me behind my back. And the more I tried to win her over, the deeper she dug her claws into me.
I spent two years desperately trying to get her to like me.
Finally I gave up and quit the job.
My friends were disappointed in how I handled the situation. They told me, “You gave her all the power. You should have filed a case against her or complained harder or…” Or…any number of alternatives. But ultimately, no other options were worth the effort.
Quitting freed me up.
It also forced me into a higher paying job. Looking back, I can honestly say it was the best thing I could have done for myself under the circumstances. I was proud of myself, and the experience taught me a lot – mainly that quitting or letting go or surrendering CAN be the right thing to do. Trying to get this person to like me – trying to CONTROL her – was not working.
It never does.
I aim to live my life from a place of love, and trying to control or manipulate someone’s actions or feelings is far from loving. It is also far from productive. By removing myself from the toxic environment – and consequently from her line of fire – I was doing a kindness not only to myself, but also to her. Sure, I was no longer fighting a losing battle as I struggled for her affection. But neither was I trying to squeeze her into a mold in which she did not fit.
I was taught to believe that surrender was a sign of weakness.
I have since come to believe that when I say “I surrender,” what I’m doing is simply giving up trying to control a world that is, without a doubt, quite beyond my control.
For example, Abraham has long been a teacher in my life, and one gift that stands out is that humans often take the harder road. The path can be so much simpler if we only allow it to be, if we can surrender to trust and guidance. One way to do this is to look back at your life at times when you held onto your will and suffered, and compare it to times when you let go and it all worked out.
Which was easier than the other?
We so often try to paddle upstream, pushing against the current by trying to control things, that we end up more exhausted than ever… and still without getting what we want.
You can put down the burden of control right this moment.
I could not be thirty years clean and sober, nor have maintained an over-100-pound weight loss for three decades, had I not surrendered the need to control my weight, my life, and how I eat.
I learned how to eat healthily through surrendering – not through controlling.
At age 24, I was at a crossroads. It really was life or death; that is how deep the pain was.
A dear friend of mine, Stephanie, suggested that she could and would be my guardian angel. She said, “Laura, since you do not love yourself, let me do it for you.” And while I never actively agreed to let her, neither did I resist. She showered me with love and led me to the 12-step programs of Overeaters Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous, which gave me a new language for survival. It was there that I learned the concept of Surrender vs. Control. I understood that I could not use my brain to think my way out of compulsive eating and alcoholism. It did not work. Nothing had worked.
I had to surrender my control.
I had to surrender to the Divine and ask for help. On one hand, this was wonderful, because I’d always had a belief in God…although I did not believe that God really could help me, especially with this problem.
On the other hand, this was all new ground for me, and I was terrified. I was required to give up my comforts, my “security blankets.” That left me vulnerable, and vulnerability can feel very scary.
Thank goodness the excitement of starting over outweighed the fear of uncharted territory, because today – 30 years later – I am here to testify that soldiers aren’t the only ones whose lives have been saved through the act of surrender.
In what kinds of situations have you found surrender to be a healthier and more productive alternative to control? Please share your thoughts and stories in the comments.