I recently started receiving an electronic newsletter called The 77% Weekly: The Religion-Outside-the-Box Newsletter. With the permission of the author, Rabbi Brian, I’m sharing a recent edition here, because I liked it so much. The topic is surrender, but not as in “Wave the white flag. I give up!” In this case, Rabbi Brian writes about surrendering in the sense of letting go of trying to control the whole world.
Back to Basics: Surrender
© 2011 Rabbi Brian
Today I want to return to the basics and talk about a classic spiritual-religious topic—surrender.
In spiritual-religious circles, the concept of surrender is treated differently from how it’s treated in war. The surrender I’m talking about here is not a synonym for “losing.”
Surrender means we are willing to stop trying to control the whole world. Surrendering involves letting go of the misguided belief that we’re the ones driving the ship. It also requires releasing the proverbial steering wheel, standing up, and sitting somewhere else.
But how? How can we relinquish our desire for control? After all, it seems to be a basic, biological instinct.
We love control. We love it. We love it.
If you’re like me, you might even believe you possess a magical super power that enables you to control almost everything. Even though you know this is not true, you still sometimes believe it. How do you know if you have this somewhat delusional thinking? It’s simple: do you get upset when you discover there are things are outside of your range of influence?
The great serenity prayer says, God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
While not all of us seem to always have or act on this wisdom, at least most of us have heard its voice whispering good advice to us. The key is listening to and acting on it.
This is the wu-wei I wrote about in issue 20/40.
We often think we can do and we can get people to do more than they can do.
I must surrender. If I don’t, I’ll continue driving myself (and probably my family) nuts by trying to control that which I can’t control.
I must cultivate in myself “wisdom to know the difference” between what I can and can’t control. Intellectually, I know which things are in my bailiwick and which aren’t. I just need to act on this knowledge. I must release my illusion of control, my fantasy of possessing a super power over the world.
Recently I heard someone say, “You either let go or you get dragged.” What a great quote. Let go or be dragged. When we let go, we find a new sense of freedom. We feel liberated – unlike when we’re busy clinging to something we’re powerless to change.
Somebody else gave me this image: Imagine you let go of a balloon, yet you step on the string with your foot so the balloon doesn’t fly off. What’s the point of letting go if you’re not really letting go?
Now think about your own life. Consider the things you know you ought not to be stressing over. Maybe there’s something or someone driving you nuts, but you keep trying to change it all. You know what I’m talking about – that thing in your life.
How can you let go of it? Picture yourself washing your hands of it, or throwing your hands in the air, finally being free of it.
You work on letting go of yours, and I’ll work on letting go of mine.
Spiritual-religious advice: Surrender!