When we hear about “letting go” and “surrender”, it can be easy to think about defeat, giving up, and weakness. However, I often see the advice “Let go and let God” on bumper stickers, and the Oscar for the best original song in 2014 went to the song “Let it go” from the Disney movie “Frozen”. So there’s gotta be something to the whole idea of surrender, right?
Let’t talk a little bit about the difference between letting go and giving up.
I think letting go, or surrendering, means that we stop fighting something that is inevitable, and stop trying to control something that is out of our control – wasting precious emotional, mental and physical energy in the process.
For example, imagine you are struck by a nasty cold; you’re feeling miserable, tired, achy, and you have to spend the day in bed. The overachiever in you may want to pop some pills, drink a triple shot of espresso with lemon and go to work anyway. The drugs may help you to make it through the day, but the next day, you’re feeling even worse! And now you really have to stay in bed. For two whole days instead of one. And it takes twice as long to get over your cold. That’s what can happen when you let the fighter, the perfectionist in you run the show.
Giving up in this example may look like this: You wake up feeling sick. You feel sorry for yourself and complain all day. Instead of chicken soup and hot tea you drink soda and eat potato chips all day, for comfort. You sit in front of the TV and watch trashy reality shows until 2 am instead of reading a good book and going to bed early. Giving up on yourself like that has an inherently negative quality to it: “I’m feeling bad, it can’t get any worse, so what does it matter what I do today”. You’re most likely not going to feel much better after a day like that…
Surrender on the other hand has a positive energy to it: You realize that you have a cold and need to stay in bed for a day. Even though you don’t feel too good, you choose a positive attitude, you really take it easy and take care of yourself. You get lots of sleep, consume light, warm, healing foods, take a hot bath, and relax. You try and make the best of the situation, knowing that when you “work with the cold” and get lots of rest, you’re gonna feel much better quickly.
When we fight something that’s inevitable, we waste precious energy. Perhaps we worry about something that is still far away in the future and that we cannot influence at all just yet. Perhaps we’ve done everything we can to prepare for a certain event, and we still worry about what else we could do. Perhaps we complain about and resist something that simply needs to be done, such as paying your taxes or sitting in traffic after an accident on the freeway.
When we give up, we see ourselves as victims. We believe that life just happens to us, and that there’s nothing we can do. We settle for less, and we not only accept things that can’t be changed, but we also ignore opportunities for when there IS a way to make changes. We basically give all of our power away.
By surrendering, we accept what is inevitable, and trust that everything happens the way it’s supposed to be. Usually, when one door closes, another one opens up – just because one path doesn’t seem to work out, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t another, even better way for you! By letting go of our attachment to the outcome and our need to control the uncontrollable, we open up to seeing greater opportunities and receiving the really good stuff.
It takes a lot of trust to let go of our worries, our inner control freak and overachiever – and sometimes, surrendering means accepting and acknowledging especially those critical voices inside and out that we’d rather ignore. In that sense, the letting go is a deeply spiritual path. It requires and teaches not only trust, but also patience, compassion, kindness, understanding, resilience and creativity. Once we let go of an inner or outer fight, we make room for new ideas, creative solutions, and beautiful miracles to enter our lives. To get back to the example of the cold: As long as we “fight” the infection, we allow a negative attitude to enter our minds and hearts, and turn our body into a war-zone. But when we meet an illness with love, kindness, patience, understanding, and the willingness to regain balance, we can help to awaken our own inner healing powers.
What is something you can let go of today? The need to control a certain outcome? An old grudge you’re holding against someone? A limiting belief about yourself and the world? An inner resistance about certain everyday chores? Pride? Uncertainty? Worries and fears?
Surrender comes in many forms: forgiveness, relaxation, slowing down, gratitude, acceptance, humility, compassion, a new perspective. What is something you can let go of today that’ll save you precious energy and ultimately make your life easier?
Here’s to letting go! (If you like, you can even sing the Disney song here ;))