Anyone familiar with AA's 12 Steps has heard the word Surrender used more than once. But how many of us truly understand what it means, and why are so many of us reluctant to surrender to a power greater than our own?
Truth is, no one likes the idea of surrendering to anyone or anything. We’ve been taught to view surrender as a sign of weakness. Society teaches us that only a coward surrenders to the enemy, while the strong and brave defeat their enemies – or, so we have been led to believe. But is that an accurate perception? Actor John Wayne never surrendered to one bad guy in the movies, but that only happens in our fantasies, of course. In real life, he lost his battle with cigarette addiction and died of lung cancer. His own willpower was not powerful enough to quit smoking on his own – more accurately, it was not powerful enough to overcome the issues that drove his addiction to cigarettes.
Sometimes, however, the only choices we have are to surrender or die. When the enemy holds a gun to your head, as sometimes happens during war, any soldier would be foolish to challenge the aggressor without a weapon of his own. It is a do or die situation, and the soldier surrenders in order to survive. In the process, many prisoners of war discover new strengths they never knew existed and become stronger than ever. He surrenders in order to fight his enemy another day.
Surrendering our problems to a Higher Power is similar to surrendering to the enemy, but in reverse. The difference is that, unlike an enemy army, our Higher Power wants only the best for us. Hand over your troubles to a power greater than your own and your Higher Power will replace them with a new strength we never thought possible.
We all surrender to many things every day, although we don’t give it much thought. How many of us would be foolish enough to cross the street without waiting for an oncoming bus to pass by first? Would we refuse to surrender to gravity by leaping out of an airplane without a parachute or decide to step outside for a stroll during a tornado? Of course we wouldn’t do those things. We surrender to gravity, the weather, the air we breathe and passing traffic in order to live and survive. We surrender to them because we have no power to control them and because they are a power greater than our own.
Yet, many of us refuse to surrender to a Higher Power, even when we’re told that a power greater than our own consists of nothing but pure, unconditional love and only wants to help us.
Why do some people refuse to surrender? There is one word that best sums it up – fear. People are afraid to connect with a Higher Power for two main reasons. Fear of losing control and fear that they will be punished or judged by the powers that be, rather than loved and forgiven. These fears are based on past experiences, of course, and were instilled in us by abusive people that have hurt us in the past. We’ve been taught to shut up and keep our problems to ourselves, unless we want more of the same. We’re told that surrender is for the weak and to put on our big boy/girl pants and deal with our problems alone. And boy, do we ever try. We come up with all kinds of ways to ignore trauma and other painful experiences of the past. We work hard to earn money, diet and exercise to look and feel better, physically, or try to outrun our fears by staying busy in other ways. Many a workaholic is driven by fear of the past and fear of the future, for example.
Or we try more self-destructive forms of escape. We overeat, drink ourselves into oblivion, and/or become addicted to drugs, sex, relationships, or gambling. While working out, eating right and earning money might be better for your physical health and state of mind than eating or drinking yourself to death, they do nothing to ensure we feel happier about ourselves on a spiritual level.
Surrendering to a Higher Power is not about throwing in the towel and giving up on our self. We don’t surrender our best qualities when we surrender – we are simply surrendering the negative emotions, trauma and pain that have been holding us back from true happiness for years. It’s really more of a merger than surrender. We are actually joining forces with a Higher Power’s energy. We’re surrendering our issues to a Higher Power in the belief that a power greater than our own can, and will, remove the issues and problems that we cannot remove using our own power.
A Higher Power not only can and will do this for us, but does remove them every day for someone, somewhere.
Surrender is a mutual, joint effort, where people and universal love work together, one surrendering to the other on a constant basis. When a baby draws its first breath of air, for example, the universe is surrendering to the baby. When our bodies die, we surrender our final breath to the universe and the cycle is complete. For the entire time we are alive, here on earth, we exist in a constant state of give and take with a power greater than our own. Those that choose to take a deep breath and make a leap of faith with a Higher Power no longer view life as a battlefield. Instead, they join with and embrace life in a way that most people will never know.
Once again, we don’t give up the best parts of ourselves when we surrender to a Higher Power. We join forces with it. Our Higher Power is our best friend. In successful long-term relationships, couples don’t surrender to one another's demands (ego-driven wants and needs). If you've ever been in that type of relationship, you know it's a recipe for failure. Instead, they surrender to a Higher Love, both collectively and as individuals. They surrender to a Higher Love as one and learn to accept, compromise and love each other on a higher level.
Although one person might temporarily surrender to their partner’s will, rather than a Higher Power’s will, neither party will know happiness for very long. When we surrender to a power greater than our own, the negative emotions within us are not only removed, but are replaced with acceptance, tolerance, patience and other traits that allow us to love others in the truest sense of the word.
We can choose to hold onto painful memories of the past and remain sad, angry, guilty and unhappy or we can choose to surrender them to a Higher Power and live a free and contented life. Franklin Delano Roosevelt once stated that “there is nothing to fear but fear itself” and he was correct. When we hand our childhood issues and other trauma over to a Higher Power, it is actually our deepest fears that we are surrendering. Ask anyone that has experienced a sudden, intense spiritual healing and they will tell you that their fear was the first to go. Imagine a bridge with a town called Fear on one side and Happiness on the other. Surrender is the name of the bridge that allows us to cross from one side to the other.