What do we think of the concept of surrender? It doesn’t sound overly attractive at first glance, yet I continue to come across references to its importance for our well-being. And I agree with them. Life would be better if most of us would surrender a little more often. Let me give three examples.
First, surrender is a well-established, critical element of addiction recovery. If you think addiction recovery is irrelevant to you (“I’m not an addict!”), I would ask you to reconsider. King Benjamin asked the question, “Are we not all beggars?” And, of course, the answer is that none of us may be saved without the Savior and so we are, indeed, all beggars. Similarly, most of us have habits we struggle to break or particular vices we return to again and again, even if smallish. Are we not all addicts? Anyway, go google “addiction surrender,” and you’ll quickly find things like this:
“Surrender is the foundation and ground upon which recovery is built.” This is because many addictions result from fighting (by seeking relief from some emotional pain through chemical or sexual experience) and one cannot continue that fight and win. Hence the first of the twelve steps from AA is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” And the third step is, “We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.” Surrender. All of us should surrender also.
Second, I’ve been reading a lot lately about anxiety. Also been listening to Claire Weekes discuss her theory about “Pass-Through Panic.” She talks about “first fear” and “second fear,” with first fear being normal, but in many of us immediately compounded by second fear when we fear the first fear and trick ourselves into a panic by fearing fear. The “panic trick” is “the idea that a person is just barely holding himself together, and that if he relaxes his grip even a little, he will fall apart. In fact, it’s his struggling to keep a grip that maintains the anxiety!”
The answer—or, at least, Dr. Weekes’ answer (but it strikes me as valid because it matches my own first-hand experience so well)—is to understand and accept the frightful feelings we experience and to surrender to them (rather than fight them) by letting them pass through us as little hindered as possible. It’s a bit like having more success in an encounter with a bear by playing dead than by taking on the bear. Surrender leads to a better outcome.
Lastly, and most importantly, is the idea of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. The Savior will, in fact, save us, but He won’t save everyone—and perhaps not even you and I if we don’t qualify. To qualify, we must have the sacrifice he requires from us: that of a broken heart and contrite spirit. If that does not accompany the covenants that can bind us to Him, then they won’t bind us to Him. Having a broken heart and contrite spirit means surrendering my will to His. It is giving up on trying to live life my way on my terms and surrendering to His will. It is recognizing when my will does not match His and then humbly and willingly accepting not just defeat in that singular contest of wills, but a sincere willingness to never engage in the contest again.
When a person commits a significant sin, he can fight against God by covering, excusing, justifying, hiding, continuing, getting angry, etc. Or he can surrender, by becoming transparent, admitting wrong, and giving into God’s way of living—not just in areas related to the particular sin—not just by ceasing that sin—but by trying to align his whole life with God’s will. He must surrender the losing battle of trying to succeed his own way.
The Savior never taught us to be someone else’s doormat. He never taught us that we should forgo exercising our precious gift of agency. He did teach us, though, that we should choose to surrender our will in exchange for His will. He promises us everything—literally—in exchange. “Everything” includes a great deal of happiness.
Surrender, when done right and sincerely, is, in fact, a key element of living after the manner of happiness.
Arthur Brooks on “Moral Elevation”
Here is a fun article from a thoughtful and respected intellectual. Thought you might like it.
(It explains in part why I always wear a BYU t-shirt when at Disneyland. :-)
(And if you don’t know who Arthur Brooks is…)