The Power of Surrender — Center for Action and Contemplation

By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies and our Privacy Policy.

The Power of Surrender

Spirituality and Addiction

The Power of Surrender
Friday, November 19, 2021

Author and activist Holly Whitaker does not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to sobriety, but she fully embraces “surrender” as vital for any healing and recovery to occur.

I’d always considered the word surrender to be blasphemous. Surrender was never a possibility to consider; it wasn’t something self-respecting, self-reliant folk like me do—we scheme around and bulldoze through whatever stands in our way. That all changed, abruptly, on that day in 2012 when I finally ran out of options and did the thing I thought I could never do—concede.

In A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson says, “Until your knees finally hit the floor, you’re just playing at life, and on some level you’re scared because you know you’re just playing. The moment of surrender is not when life is over. It’s when it begins.” [1] It is entirely cliché, but this was exactly my experience. The moment I finally let my knees hit the floor was when I finally stopped playing at life, and every bit of good that’s come to me since then stems from this reversal of opinion on surrender.

Surrender is the strongest, most subversive thing you can do in this world. It takes strength to admit you are weak, bravery to show you are vulnerable, courage to ask for help. It’s also not a one-time gig; you don’t just do it once and move on. It’s a way of existing, a balancing act. For me, it looks like this: I pick up the baton and I run as far as I can, and I hand it over when I’m out of breath. Or actually maybe it’s like: I’m running with the baton, but the Universe is holding on to the other half of it, and we have an agreement that I’ll figure out the parts I can and hand over the parts I can’t.

In his online course on spirituality and addiction, Father Richard puts it this way:

Until you move to the sense of being able to trust there is a God who is guiding you, who loves you more than you love yourself—that’s when you’ve made the transfer. That’s when you know you’re a part of a bigger flow, a bigger system—if you want to use that word—and you are not doing it, it is being done unto you. [2]

Whitaker continues her thoughts on the power of surrender:

Life no longer feels precarious, or about to crumble—even when it is, in fact, crumbling. By surrendering to whatever is unfolding and by accepting what is, by giving up on the outcome and allowing life to flow the way it’s meant to, by stepping out of your own way and letting the natural order take the lead, you not only get a break from the exhaustion of having to control everything, but you also get to experience life, instead of what you think life owes you. (Hint: What life wants to give us is infinitely better than what we think it owes us.)

[1] Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles (HarperPerennial: 1996), 12–13.

[2] Richard Rohr, Breathing Under Water: A Spiritual Study of the Twelve Steps (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2020), online course.

Holly Whitaker, Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol (Dial Press: 2021), 158–160.

Story from Our Community:
The unconscious ego, unhealed, will always project unresolved issues. Compassion and forgiveness for ourselves must come first. This can only come through the divine merciful spirit of God. I struggled with addictions to cover up the pain and scapegoating tactics. I finally took responsibility, got real, and honest with myself and . . . now I have a wider view of humanity. —K.L.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations Editorial Team.

Image Credit: Rose B. Simpson, The Secret of Flight (detail), 2015, sculpture.
We featured the artist of these sculptures, Rose B. Simpson, at our recent CONSPIRE conference—so many of us were impacted by her creations that we decided to share her work with our Daily Meditations community for the month of November.
Image Inspiration: I’m this post-colonial, bi-cultural being in the world who has experienced. . . the gift of perspective in context in this foundation but also this deep asking of why. Why do we do the things we do? Why do we live the way we do? Why have the things happened to us that have happened and why do we continue to abuse each other and also our environment and ourselves? —Rose B. Simpson, CONSPIRE Interview, 2021
Join Our Email Community

Stay up to date on the latest news and happenings from Richard Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation.

HTML spacer