What is Surrender?

When I first came to SAL groups, I had been attending a different recovery group for a year.  While I had never heard the term of surrender before, it was skittered throughout many of the comments of SAL women each week in their shares.  Embarrassed that I was unfamiliar with something that seemed so fundamental, I kept trying to figure out what they were talking about.

As I became brave enough to ask directly for other group members to explain surrender to me, and I began to work with my own sponsor, I quickly began to realize that surrender is something that you only begin to understand when you begin to practice it.  Here’s a quick run-down of what surrender has come to mean to me:

What Surrender Is

Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life…it is to relinquish inner resistance to what is.” -Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now, p206learning to surrender

In Rhyll Croshaw’s book, What Can I Do About Me?  she explains that the first 3 steps are a daily process of learning to surrender her own will by believing in God’s great power.  In SAL, we often talk about the “surrender process” which gives us tangible, concrete actions to take to help us let go of our inner resistance.

On my knees-we give our fear, resentment, pride, control…whatever…to God through prayer.

On the phone-we reach out and call our sponsor or another group member who understands the Steps and the surrender process, and speak our surrender out loud to her.

In the box-we write our surrender on a scrap of paper and put it in a “Surrender Box”, “God Jar”, or even in the garbage can.

Surrender is the process by which I let go of my will and seek to align myself with God’s will.  It is most effective when done in the moment I become aware of my lack of serenity…not at the end of a resentful day or week.

Surrender requires the awareness and humility to be open to the idea that the way I am currently approaching the situation is not working.  I must be willing to let go and try things His way.

When I truly surrender, I can feel a tangible lifting in my heart and my body: a weight off my shoulders. I am acknowledging that I am no longer in charge of something or someone. God is. I feel light. I feel free. As one SAL woman put it, “I don’t worry about it anymore.”

I may need to surrender over and over again if I keep finding myself returning mentally or physically to a troubling situation. Surrender is a practice I can use every single time I lose my serenity. It is perhaps the most important tool I have to keep God at my center.

I have learned that His will for me may change moment to moment in different situations, so it is less effective to white-knuckle my way through a tension-filled day, only to follow it up with a big surrender. Neither can I expect some big blanket list of boundaries to always produce a desired outcome.  Rather, if I am willing to take one step at a time, practice awareness and accountability for my own negative emotions, and surrender in the moment, He will reveal His will for me one step at a time. I will experience greater serenity in my relationships and more stillness in my soul.

What Surrender is Not

Surrender is NOT a license to vent and complain.  Sometimes I have caught myself saying, “I just need to surrender that…” and then I go on and on complaining about how terrible someone is.

This is not a surrender.  This is me using the term “surrender” to dump all my criticisms of someone.  Surrender always comes back to letting go of MY underlying fear or coping strategy. The focus is always on me and what I need to let go of.

For example, if someone else is highly critical and nothing I do is ever good enough for them, it has been much more effective for me to focus on surrendering  MY fear that I am not enough, than to surrender that THEY are critical and difficult. I can surrender MY need to be validated by the approval of others, and feel peace no matter what the other person decides to do.  With surrender, my serenity is no longer a slave to someone else’s behavior.

As I practice this, it also becomes clear when a boundary is needed. I can apply the serenity prayer to any situation: what do I have the power to change?  This is where I need to create or hold a boundary.

What do I not have the power to change? This is what I need to accept through surrender.

This type of surrender always brings the promised peace of the program.  The license-to-criticize kind just feeds my resentment.

I have been practicing surrender as an integral part of my daily life for the past 2 years and I am still figuring it out.  Recovery is a process and not a destination.  But I can say, that when I get it right and I truly surrender in the moment, that is where the peace is.  That is where the miraculous process starts, and that is the key that unlocks the indescribable magic of Steps 6 & 7, and He comes in and takes away the junk that is keeping me from connecting with Him and others.  It Works When I Work It.

We would all love to learn from your insights and experiences with Surrender.

Looking forward to reading your comments this week!

17 thoughts on “What is Surrender?”

  1. Surrender is amazingly beautiful!! It totally feels like magic! I for ever be greatful for learning how to access Christ power and grace; I am in aw everytime I surrender I find peace, forgiveness, LOVE, mercy and reasutance!

    1. Eva–you have a gift of being able to get right to the heart of recovery. It is the gift of grace, peace, forgiveness, LOVE, and mercy that comes when we surrender. Thank you for sharing your strength, hope, and experience!

  2. I love the quote by Tolle -seriously so good. And I really can relate to what you added at the end… surrender is such a learning process.

    This morning, I surrendered my will about several situations, and it was very freeing. The rest of my day went better for sure. Surrender is such a vital truth -I need it badly, daily. Sometimes hourly.

    1. Yes–I love that word “freeing.” Surrender frees me from the weight of negative emotions, and the false belief that I am supposed to know how or be able to fix things. Surrender is freedom!…and it is learning to depend upon the One who can fix everything.

  3. I LOVE the surrender process! Thank you so much for sharing your experience and knowledge about it. I too am so grateful for this amazing tool in my life. I have to be honest for myself it can be really hard to humble myself and choose to surrender. It takes a great amount of courage and humility to surrender. One of the reason I love being a Sponsor is seeing so many women who are humble and courageous as they work thier 1, 2 and 3 to surrender and be open to knowing Gods will for them. These women are examples to me everyday. I love the feeling of clarity and peace I feel as I surrender to God. What a beautiful tool the 12 step program has given me.

  4. Thanks Tosha. I love how you point out that it takes courage and humility to surrender. I am also so grateful for the constant strength I find in sponsees and other group members as I attend my meetings. Seeing surrender work in the lives of others definitely inspires me to surrender more often!

  5. Thank you so much for writing this article. The words that are echoing through me are, “The license-to-criticize kind just feeds my resentment.” I recognize that this is where I am stuck. I am experiencing so much emptiness in my marriage that I think I am looking for the reasons to blame it on. I have become so critical and I do recognize the great apetite my resentment has. I do not want to feel that. I do not want to have that. It is not who I am. I know that it is more than just stopping the criticisms. I am open to suggestions of how.

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