"Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. It is up to you to give [life] a meaning." ~ Jean-Paul Sartre
"In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility." ~Eleanor Roosevelt
My coach, Harold, recently brought up the topic of surrender in a video he made on Instagram. I found it interesting because of the way he spoke about surrender, as an action, something we do. I think typically we think of surrender as a lack of action, something we often equate with failure: our inability to act "right," to take the steps we think appropriate and necessary, in order for us to win. Dictionally, surrender is the same as crumbling, giving up, submitting, being beat, these are words that naturally draw our minds towards failure. So how could it be that surrender is a good thing? After all, the dictionary tells us it's the same as a loss, and I think, irrefutably, we can all agree that pain is life's one constant; and with loss inevitably comes pain, and who wants that?
Typically we tend to judge pain as "bad," we label it as such because we determine it to be undesirable. In this human experience we only want the "good;" we beg, "please, just leave out all the rest," exclaiming how tired we are of the suffering. The irony in this is that the vast majority of religions point to the same temporal suffering in their teachings, the inevitable sacrifice. We human beings have bodies made of this earth, flesh that tears with the sharp cut of a knife, blood that spills from our wounds, bones that break when hit with the blunt forces of a physical world. We will never fully understand the dichotomy of this world, of life's existence, and we will never end suffering, but maybe, with a subtle shift in perspective, we won't choose to engage in the suffering that is bound to exist. Perhaps here, in the stillness of neutrality, we will find the courage of acceptance, and maybe giving up to that is the worthiest surrender of all.
So maybe after all, surrender is giving up, and maybe the important thing to remember is that it always comes down to a choice. There is a decision to be made, and nobody, not even God, will make your decisions for you. Contrarily, it would seem, that no matter how hard we try to shirk our personal responsibility, the chips, inevitably, always lie with us. I think the important thing to talk about when it comes to surrender is: who or what are you surrendering to? Further still, when confronted on the battle field of life with the option to surrender, another question warrants investigation: what is it that you're defending?
In this age of self-help, and "fake it until you make it," I think the pursuit of something we at first thought noble has caused us to lose sight of the very roots we aimed to upheave from the primeval oceans of our lives. We sprayed the ghastly weeds of the earth, we covered them with the mists from neatly packaged plastic bottles, bottles covered in cleverly marketed labels that promised to kill whatever we deemed "unsightly." We were promised this, without ever having to dig up the ground, without ever having to get dirt under our fingernails, without having to expose the roots beneath the dry and cracking earth. We've laid concrete and asphalt over our lives, we've built walls and fortresses, forgetting that a root beneath the soil, no matter how cracked, how dry, or depleted that soil is, will still burst forth into being; and in this process, it will crack and break your perfectly leveled concrete. It will do so, and it will do it unapologetically.
We all have weeds in our lives, those things we find so unsightly we wish they would disappear, without our ever having to face them. Some of us have so many weeds that it's seemed more efficient, more reasonable, to just keep spraying them. We convince ourselves we don't ever have to find the root of our problems, we convince ourselves that we'll be just fine; so long as we keep hiding those unsightly things in our lives - and yet, we somehow wonder why the world looks the way that it does. We cover our yards with concrete, our lives with lies, and our faces with the masks we wear in public (these days quite literally). But inevitably, the concrete cracks, our lies fail us, and the masks are no longer enough to give us the illusion of safety, because as it turns out, we're inherently riddled with fear anyway, and it's only when the truth comes down on us, as it always will, that we're forced to face ourselves. Some of us didn't make time to tend our gardens. We told ourselves it was because it wasn't "necessary," we could get away with covering it all up, couldn't we?
The truth is, I convinced myself it was for the "efficiency." I didn't have the time to dig up the roots of my past, how could I? I never left any room in my life to feel. It turns out there's more to life than outward "productivity." If you realign your sight, you discover that hopes for efficiency fail when you've measured productivity for the units of the wrong output. At least that's what I realized. If you don't care about being happy at all, keep spraying the weeds and building the concrete, higher and higher, thicker and thicker; keep wearing the masks. But if you do so, please remember that it was you who made the choice, you are the one responsible - herein lies the ultimate freedom, the ultimate power, the choice to choose your life and your experience of it, unequivocally. Warning: it's loaded with responsibility. When we make the choice to give up the pretense of safety, and the mask finally falls, we're forced to face our disillusionment; we've all lied to one another, but mostly, we've lied to ourselves. If it's lies that you're defending, maybe it would be best to hand yourself over to truth - in light of this new insight, surrender doesn't sound so bad after all. But here's another warning: even if you've lived your life defending lies, the idea of giving that up, it's terrifying.
So when It comes to the topic of surrender, we've gone over some important distinctions. Surrender can feel like failure, but just because it feels that way, doesn't mean it's true - it doesn't necessarily mean you've actually failed - it could be a sign you're on your way to seeing the world rightly, with a new perspective, and such a shift is bound to be life changing, in one way or another. We've discussed the importance of knowing what or who you're defending, and what or who you have the option of surrendering to. Here's the thing though, us humans, we're complicated creatures and a lot of the time we aren't suspicious enough of our own motives, and thus, we can become incapable of uncovering the truth, without the proper insight and tools for digging. "Trust" yourself, "love" yourself, "believe" in yourself, these are all sweetly sounding words, but without the power of true feeling behind them, they are just that, empty words, attempts to point to the light of something real - mere symbols.
Harold began his video questioning his own relationship with surrender, and asking others to think about investigating theirs, in hopes it would help them discover something valuable about themselves. After all, there is no self-discovery too small to provide meaning, even when you discover something you consider unpleasant; all self-discover is worth while. Harold brought up a significant point in the video, with regard to surrender: we often talk about spiritual surrender, we lay our concerns in the hands of God, and He, the nurturer of all things, will surely take care of them for us. Now this is a lovely sentiment, and I think it's a spiritual practice that can work wonders in our lives, but I have more to say about this. Surrendering to the right thing is highly valuable, but it requires the development of our ability to discern, which is a skill that requires both learning and practice. You say you want to surrender your concerns to God, that's beautiful, but I ask you, "how will you know when you've heard him?"
We often do what we want to, and as the complex beings we are, we effectively hide our own motives, desires, and intentions, even from ourselves. So even though we say we know what we're doing, the facts remain, we seldom do. We assume we know ourselves because we've spent our lives acting as ourselves, but personalities don't just appear, they unfold and form, but only as they're moulded and created. Giving God the ultimate authority in our lives is beneficial, but only when you see yourself as an integral component in the relationship with you and your God - whomever that is for you is irrelevant to me. God, the Universe, this world demands of us personal responsibility, so much so, in fact, that even when we deny our own responsibility, and banish it to the farthest edges of our existence, we cannot be rid of it. Even then, we are still responsible for our lack of responsibility and our choice in making that so. You, my dear friend, are responsible for the unfolding of your life, just as much as God is, and that is the real beauty of it all - the magical and cosmic interplay of life.
Personally, I've never been one to believe in blind faith. If God created me, then he created me with a mind that thinks, a mind filled with innumerable questions, and thus, he should accept me as he created me - I'm a package deal (Harold would agree with me). I believe in a higher power because in my life I have tested it, because I have seen and experienced the proof of it. I believe in God because even in facing the cold, lifeless, seemingly calculated facts of life, I've seen him everywhere. I believe in God because He's proved His existence to me, and trust me, I demand proof beyond that that would leave room for reasonable doubt. I'm a tough crowd and a hearty critic. To me, God isn't something nice to believe in, He's a fact. So for those without the belief of God in their lives, maybe he isn't there, maybe you haven't proof enough to believe in Him, maybe in your world there is no God - I respect that. And for those who hold so much belief in God that they have made it their duty to uphold His judgment, for those who become angered or judgmental towards those whom hold different views, it's not God that you believe in, rather you have a blind belief in your own arbitrary demands of the world; you have simply made your ego into a god, and have called it the will of the Lord almighty. I say this matter of factly, because the presence of your deep seated fear and judgment is proof of the unscrupulous nature of your own feeble character and shaky belief: you need others to believe, because in truth you believe so little. For God may not be easily understood by the small minds of men, but He is not inscrutable, and thus welcomes the inquisitive minds of man, just as he welcomes the minds of those whom chose to blindly follow any dogma that was sold to them as the "only" right way.
When you feel quick to throw your challenges to God, I would implore you to investigate your own hastiness to do so. If you are doing so from a place of responsibility for your own soul, then by all means, but make sure you have the open mind and ready ears to hearken his words when he speaks - for they may come from the most unsuspecting mouths. Surrender is an action, it is the decision when faced with options, and we always have options. I remind you, be weary of using God as an excuse to evade your own responsibility, for doing so is in itself is an act against life itself, and such an act is never of God. Some of the worst atrocities in history have been undertaken in the name of "God," or the "betterment" of society. I need not list them. We don't know what the world needs, we don't know what would be best for it, we simply do not know these things because we don't know the world; we don't know it's desires, it's needs, it's motives, it's deepest longings, it's greatest fears, it's darkest horrors, and how could we know these things? We hardly take the time to come to know ourselves - welcome, my friends, to the root of all hypocrisy. Get to know yourself, you may be surprised what you find, and maybe that, after all, is exactly what the world needs - more people who have accepted the call that beckons them inward.
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thing own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. Matthew 7:1-5