Surrender is personal. Every day we are faced with decisions that concern surrender. We surrender to traffic laws, to office protocols, to the School Evening Program of our children, to the irritable clerk at the grocery store, to unwritten codes of conduct spelled out by our particular culture. Sometimes we surrender to our base instincts of sexual lust and find ourselves in an affair with someone other than our spouse. We are faced with choices, surrender to the cultural code of conduct, or surrender to our lust? Surrender is the elixir of social order.
I just did a google search on “Ego and Surrender”. My page was filled with the specific concern of ego and surrender in addiction. Does google know that I often write about addiction? Must I now write in protest to google – or do I just surrender to the ‘the way it is’? Every day we make choices about surrender. Most of the time we just accept the ‘way it is’ because we have bigger fish to fry, other mountains to climb, and other ships to sail. Our priorities are often simple and easy to structure. Most decisions of surrender are thus so simple that we are almost unaware we even made a choice. But choices we do make. And some choices have profound long-term consequences.
The issue of Surrender becomes an issue when the choice it too great to ignore. Philosophers speak of surrender in the highest order – surrender to God for instance. Surrendering all of life difficulties to God is probably the ultimate form of surrender. Surrender becomes central to theology. Every day people are faced with a choice between working on a problem themselves or turning the problem over to their God. As in almost everything else in life, there are extremes and compromises. We do not generally question the concept of surrender – but we very much challenge the timing. People have been heard to say, “God can move mountains but he expects us to bring our wheel barrow and shovel”. Cute and clever – but still we are left with determining which dirt is mine to shovel and which is God’s. Surrender is not easy. When? Where? Why? “Hold on God, I just need a little more time with this problem before I surrender.”
Two years ago Mr. Clark (the Editor of this magazine) and I witnessed what we deemed to be child abuse. Clearly we had to act. But life is not so easy. Is there a limit to our human power? The person committing the abuse has a different interpretation of abuse than Mr. Clark or me. Must we have our way? What if we are correct and the abuser is wrong? What if the perceived abuser is right and merely being a responsible adult? I, for one, did not consider that possibility because my clarity of child abuse is absolute. Is surrender complete and total? Are there such things as conditional surrender? If so then must we negotiate with God about which parts of a problem we must give to him and which we must fight for ourselves? Note a word used earlier – absolute. Absolute leaves little room for compromise or surrender.
My personal problem with the God thing is that I do not believe in an intervening God. My God established the rules of the universe and gave me the intelligence to understand the rules. I am required by my God to use my intellect to solve my problems. Imagine God as a collective unconscious – an intelligence that permeates the universe and connects all of nature. This God resides in my unconscious self. When I am distressed by a problem I must calm down and meditate and connect with the collective – the answers will come if I am patient. My faith in this process has been affirmed many times. My problem is in the ‘calming down’ and ‘meditating’. My fury rises proportionately with the perception of vile behavior and resistance to change. I seem to cross a line and refuse to surrender, even to my own process of faith. Pride takes hold. Ego comes into play. We might see the horizon but have lost our sense of direction – and like the befuddled airplane pilot in a storm, we might ignore our instruments and act of confused instinct. In this state of being our failure to surrender ends when we hit the rock face of the mountain. It is easy, and unfortunately too common, to lose our sense of direction when dealing with emotional trauma. The trauma of child abuse drove Mr. Clark into the mountain. He is recovering but asked me to write this post.
Our choices range from the absurd to the most compelling, life changing positions ever conceived. Consider this example of the absurd:
There is this man, 78 years old, living in St. Joesph, Missouri, who takes hard line stands on issues of politics and daily order. For instance, he does not have a driver’s license because the U.S. Constitution says nothing of that requirement. The local police have come to know who he is and they leave him alone. He is not a fool who careens around carelessly to prove a point. He does not agree with any traffic laws because they are not referenced in the Constitution. He will never surrender. He drives safely because it is wise, not because anyone told him to. One day a rookie policeman observed our man coming to a near stop at a red light and then proceeding through the intersection when he deemed it safe. The rookie pulled him over. Our man stopped out of courtesy, not because of any law. The rookie asked the man sitting in the car for his driver’s license. “I do not have a driver’s license,” replied our man. The rookie asks our man to step out of the car. “Why?” our man asked. The flustered rookie opened the door and demanded exit. “Leave me alone,” our man said. The officer reached in to unbuckle the seat belt (worn for safety, not for obedience) and our man stabbed the rookie’s hand with his ink pen. The rookie bodily removed our man from the car with force and informed his prisoner he would be charged with assaulting a police officer. In the mean time the Police Street Commander had driven to the scene – he wanted to observe his rookie in action. The Commander intervened. Eventually someone was going to surrender – to let go of their position in the interest of sanity and maturity.(Charges were filed. Our man told the judge the truth. The judge found him guilty. No punishment was administered. Sanity prevailed.)
I have historical heroes. People like Washington, Lincoln, T.R. Roosevelt, Truman, and Winston Churchill. All of these men fought to the end. They never surrendered. We do find instances in their lives where they compromised. Washington accepted the surrender of Cornwallis. Lincoln forgave the South. Roosevelt found a compromise to end the Russian/Japanese war inn 1906. Churchill found compromise with is parliament – but not with Hitler. Truman compromised at the 38th Parallel.
Churchill, when referring to the battle with Hitler’s Germany, said:
Churchill is one of my favorites in all of history – I, like Churchill, will fight to the death (I have used 8 of my 9 lives for all battles cannot be won).
The irony of surrender is that in many cases we only when when we stop fighting.
Consider these quotes from others who contemplated the idea of surrender”
“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
“No man is great enough or wise enough for any of us to surrender our destiny to. The only way in which anyone can lead us is to restore to us the belief in our own guidance.”
? Henry Miller
“God had brought me to my knees and made me acknowledge my own nothingness, and out of that knowledge I had been reborn. I was no longer the centre of my life and therefore I could see God in everything.”
? Bede Griffiths
“Go home, and let all your relatives off the potter’s wheel. You are not the potter!”
? Joyce Meyer
“The greatness of the man’s power is the measure of his surrender.”
? William Booth
? Alain de Botton
“I wonder if pain comes from surrendering or resisting?”
? Donna Lynn Hope
“The ego hates losing – even to God.”
? Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life
“One real danger in love relationships is that most people secretly believe that they must control the love object in order to feel safe in loving and being loved. The cause of this is simple—children are made to feel that they must “give themselves up” if they are to be loved. Thus, for most humans the act of surrender has meant the loss of autonomy or worse—loss of one’s own mind.
Surrender is neither control nor morbid dependency and cannot be made contingent upon giving away one’s “soul”; nonetheless, the person surrendering opens completely to the moment, and runs the risk of being deeply hurt. Sadly, in our society this is not uncommon and frequently serves to harden or embitter a person toward life in general. Or, on the other had being deeply hurt in the act of surrender can lead to angry and painful “cries for help.” When this occurs there is an insatiable and wrathful desire to be cared for as a child is cared for and the horrid fear of loss of independence.”
? Christopher S. Hyatt, Sex Magic, Tantra & Tarot: The Way of the Secret Lover