Life is fraught with difficult experiences and situations beyond our control. Unforeseen events may short-circuit our best efforts. We can see our letdown as failure which fosters resignation or view our circumstance with curiosity which helps us learn from the situation. Resignation is a state of disappointment that highlights our feelings of failure. Surrender is an active, conscious choice, a decision rooted in our awareness that life is an unpredictable, uncontrollable journey.
Resignation takes away our ability to see options or to act in our own best interest. Unsure what to do next, or how to tend to our broken heart, we freeze. Hopelessness and helplessness color the lens through which we view our situation. We become discouraged, frustrated, confused, resentful. Faith in ourselves and our endeavors wanes. We do not take an active role in our life; we stop caring for ourselves. Our sense of self-worth diminishes. The disappointment may be the latest in several painful experiences. Any effort seems futile, so why bother?
Surrender is a difficult topic for me. By default, intense emotional pain gives way to resignation. My modus operandi is to give my heart to my vision. I forget the need for detachment, the need to cultivate hope and faith without forming a vice grip on the outcome. When I attempt to control or predict a specific outcome, I am wrong one hundred percent of the time. “This time will be different.”
I want the experiences in my life to go well. The problem arises when my emotional investment clouds my ability to see my dream with practicality. I am filled with the energy of excitement. I give little thought to what could go wrong. When reality falls short of my vision, I fall into rumination on past experiences. I worry about the future. Deep depression and anxiety follow. Resignation creeps in. I cannot see options, new opportunities, or the lessons in the experience. I am caught up in my feelings as I wander around in darkness. I journal about my angst. I see my counselor. In recent years, each experience granted me new insight and wisdom.
We often view surrender as a negative, admission of defeat. We feel forced into an experience we do not want. Surrender does not mean giving up or giving in. Nor does it mean we allow abuse or exploitation. The gift of surrender involves recognition that we have done all we can, we cannot control the outcome. There is freedom in letting go of our need to control the situation or fix the problem. We invite the possibility of more desirable options and outcomes. We find a sense of serenity as we see a broader picture.
The path of surrender is difficult. We must go through a process of grief, courage, hope, faith, wisdom, and trust. As we surrender, we acknowledge the strengths and limitations of ourselves and our situation. The options available to us may be less than desirable, but we invite peace to enter our life. We surrender many times. Surrender varies in degree of difficulty, sometimes easier than others. Many factors may influence our ability to reach acceptance, and surrender to reality—the freshness, intensity, and gravity of the experience; previous experiences; the people involved; and, the grief process which varies with each person and each situation. Our setback may result in a far more favorable outcome than we could imagine. Sometimes, it does not.
To nudge ourselves away from the pain of disappointment toward acceptance and surrender, we approach our situation with mindfulness. We
- treat ourselves with compassion and gentleness;
- pay attention to self-talk; what we say, and how we say those words, have meaning. They are strong indicators of whether we are in despair and on our way to resignation or in acceptance and on our way to surrender.
- look at the reality of our circumstances, what happened or is happening with awareness rather than judgment;
- embrace our feelings and express them in safe ways;
- look for our strengths and use them to move forward;
- get help—others may point out options we did not see. Asking for help may come in the form of counseling (schedule an appointment with Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center here), spiritual direction, a close friend, someone professional or experienced, or even classes. Sometimes, realizing our dream and reaching our definition of success takes time to unfold. We may have to plant a lot of seeds before our vision can blossom;
- know we will be okay, that we are neither controlled by nor defined by the experience;
- approach disappointment with curiosity, seek out the message or lesson.
The difficulties of life happen to all of us. Our approach to withstanding those difficulties contributes to our peace of mind, our sense of self, our overall outlook. Life offers opportunities in forms we do not expect. The gift of surrender invites freedom of choice. Renewed strength emerges from a sense of empowerment. Letting go of the need to control and fix sets us on the path of healing and hope as we prepare for the next development in our journey.
Much peace and joy to you.
NOTE: The information offered above is not a substitute for professional intervention for mental health, grief, medical, or legal issues. I offer you my deepest empathy. I hope for your healing.
To read more about Billie and her articles, click HERE.