For the longest time, I misunderstood the meaning of the word surrender. Or at least I had a narrow or restricted definition for surrender.
For the longest time, I thought surrender meant to give up or to give in. Like waving the white flag in a war. To me that meant:
- To give up agency
- To give in to addiction(s)
- To give up critical thinking
- To give in to the opinion of others
- To give up authenticity
- To give in to despair
- To give up creating or building
- To give in to arbitrary authority
- To give up the fight–whether for health or justice or anything else desired
In short, surrender, to me, typically meant caving-in to the control of some-one/thing else. I’d be the loser, the victim.
Not a big wonder, though, when you consider how this wiki defines and differentiates surrender and submit, two words I had also equated:
As verbs the difference between submit and surrender is that submit is to yield or give way to another while surrender is to give up into the power, control, or possession of another; specifically (military) to yield (land, a town, etc) to an enemy.
As a noun surrender is an act of surrendering, submission into the possession of another; abandonment, resignation.WikiDIFF
If I’d ever had a battle cry, for most of my life it would have been, never surrender!
In that context, you might then understand that it never felt right to me when people said, as they often do: “I surrender to God’s will.” It rankled me; just like the frequently-used Filipino expression “bahala, na” (“whatever will be” or ”it’s in God’s hands”) used to rankle me. In my early years living in the Philippines, I had (perhaps wrongly or incompletely) understood this fatalistic wave of the hand as an excuse not to act or take responsibility.
Thinking about this at a deeper level, I’ve come to see my own unwillingness to surrender as my attachment to needing to feel in control, of being the driver. There was my masculine energy of action, of leading, of directing the outcome, that I did not want to relinquish.
That energy plays out in a variety of ways, often productive, sometimes futile. In my work life, I claim that this was mostly positive energy that drove me to lead us to reach our goals. In Jungian terms, this was, in my view, my animus at its best.
Jungians have found that in every man there is a feminine sub-personality called the Anima, made up of the feminine archetypes. And in every woman there is a masculine sub-personality called the Animus, made up of the masculine archetypes.Robert L. Moore
I can’t point to a specific moment in time when my understanding of surrender changed. But it did change. And maybe not that long ago.
It’s not that the definition given in wikiDIFF is wrong; it’s just incomplete.
I can now embrace surrender as a letting go… letting go of control, letting go of the outcome. This I’ve already done in various situations for decades and have already written about.
I can now embrace surrender as trusting the process… trusting that others will act as they promise, trusting they have my best interest at heart. And this too I’m familiar with and have already written about.
I came to understand that this kind of surrender is the exact opposite of submission, which involves following the whims and wishes of someone acting in *their* interest, often at the expense of ours. When we submit, by definition, we act against our own self-interest.
By contrast, when we surrender, we *trust* someone will act or lead us to happy outcomes, to bliss even.
Something amazing happens when we surrender and just love. We melt into another world, a realm of power already within us. The world changes when we change. The world softens when we soften. The world loves us when we choose to love the world.Marianne Williamson
A lovely and beneficial example of my surrendering came to pass just these past weeks when I allowed myself to follow the knowledgeable lead of my friend Jill as she drove us on our 9-day road trip through the breathtaking Cordillera Mountains of the Philippines with its remarkable 6-800-year-old rice terraces. That may have been the first travel in decades that I did not plan out myself and that made ‘going with the flow” with Jill extra special. She—and the mountains—did not disappoint!
How has my new understanding of surrender affected how I’ve responded to my monstrous anti-cancer program?
To surrender to pain and discomfort does not mean giving up or giving in. It means accepting what is. With acceptance comes peace of mind.
I’m still not sure how this year will affect my physical or mental condition in the longer-term. Even now, three months after chemotherapy treatments and two months after radiation sessions, I’m still feeling the tingling in my fingers and feet (peripheral neuropathy), my nose still drips regularly, and my muscles are weaker than they were before all this started. My energy level is lower and I tire more easily. Yet finally my head has some fuzz and my legs were strengthened from walking in the mountains. So onward!
Now I can say bahala, na and mean it to say I can—or will be able to—deal with whatever comes my way or challenges life throws at me. I stay present in the journey, look for the small joys, and let go of the outcomes.
I surrender to life, its ups and downs. I love.
Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? what could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.Eckhart Tolle
How easily do you surrender? What does surrender mean to you?
PS. Do share my post or journal with others if what you read here resonates.