A couple of years ago, I was part of an online accountability group. When that group was no longer a good fit for me, Beth and I formed a new, smaller one with our friends, Peter and Bill. Along the way, I learned a little something about will and surrender, namely, it’s hard to tell the difference between what we do and don’t have control over in our lives.
According to A Course in Miracles, these moments of confusion or fear are when we need to ask our Higher Power for something we cannot create ourselves – a miracle. Being human, we often have no friggin’ idea what comes next or if we have the ability to make anything happen, so we have an option that may strike many as fantastical – to say, “God, please show me the way. I surrender to You!”
Surrender carries the baggage of giving up in our culture. In my mind’s eye, I see all of the TV shows, comic books and movies we grew up with – stories where someone wins and another loses, surrendering to the victors. That’s a different kind of surrender and I’ll get to it in a minute.
For now, let’s define our terms.
In “Will and Surrender” we recognize our strengths, where we can put in effort and energy and quickly or over a long time change something. That’s Will and it encompasses grit and a positive mindset and it’s often done alone.
Surrender is when we know that something is beyond our capabilities, where we need help because we cannot do “it” alone.
When we surrender, we recognize our limits. We metaphorically open up a door to let help come in. We stop thinking of ways to push our bodies and minds toward a solution and let go, instead. In so doing, we also may ask the Universe, “please help me because I don’t know what to do or how to do it.” (The word “God” has a troubling history for some, so use whatever works for you.)
As I write the word, “surrender”, I still feel the air sucked out of me. It still feels like giving up because I’ve been schooled – first as a boy and then as a man – to never, ever give up. Sound familiar?
Okay. Let’s get this straight. This kind of over-the-top willfulness is first-class, John Wayne, armed forces, football yard-by-yard, macho bullshit. Many a man is walking around with a bad back and knees or a hernia because he doesn’t know his limits. And many a woman and child have been hurt by this guy at his worst. This is Man 1.0 and it needs to be something we leave behind in our collective history.
Note: the willful bully is not giving up easily in this world. Witness the rise of fascism in many countries.
Although I know a lot about Man 2.0 in my life, I am still learning how to consistently be him. Even today, I found myself glued to the computer trying to work out an issue for four hours straight. I was obsessed. This is an example of my grit and determination, yes, but it’s also a recipe for overwhelm and imbalance. So, why didn’t I stop? Because a “real man” doesn’t stop until he finishes the task. Yikes. I’m such a dunce sometimes.
But here’s what comes next…
I forgive myself for following an old script. I forgive myself for trying so hard to get it right. I understand how my training can lead me astray and I don’t beat myself up for it (or let anyone else do the same). I am imperfect and I surrender to the limits of my current ability to tell the difference between will and surrender. I ask “Higher Power, won’t you please help me to get better at this?” That’s all I can do. And that feels – in my body – like gentleness for Scott. It’s the power of love versus the grip of fear.
As I wrote about yesterday, this is a big week. There’s lots to do and many miles to cover. We’re trying new things and we’re scared. So, self-care mistakes will happen. Relationship errors may pile up. It’s all-natural when we’re expanding fast.
I just wish John Wayne had taken off his cowboy hat and said, “Pardner, I need a nice salad and a good massage, right now. Come to think of it, I could use a couple of days off before we go and round up the next bunch of horses. And if that ain’t alright, well someone else can go and be the hero, today.”
In time, men. In time.