I confess. I don’t understand the the word “surrender”. Sure, I’ve used the word. Like the popular 80s tune by Corey Hart “Never Surrender”, I’ve shouted the words during many late night study sessions. On reflection I don’t think I understand.

Both Google and Oxford (aka Googoxford) define surrender: ”cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.“ Looking for enemies? How about the following:


war on crime
war on cancer
war on drugs
war on terrorism


Here are the enemies, now fight!

But there’s more. Googoxford states to surrender is to “submit to their authority”. I see crime having no authority nor cancer, drugs or terrorism. If I were to surrender, to whose authority would I be submitting? I don’t understand.

Many feel that to surrender is an invitation to be lazy. Yet others like myself feel to surrender is akin to “leaving one’s common sense at the front door”. Either way, few of us like the idea of surrender. All our lives we’re encouraged to be persistent and give honour to those that finish the course. There is, nevertheless, a Christian tradition suggesting that to surrender can mean “giving up the struggle”, “leaving one's troubles at the feet of Jesus”, taking on a more or less “Don’t Worry Be Happy” attitude. I think this is something I can begin to understand. Perhaps "surrender" can be an acceptance of a world and a life that is fragile and sometimes broken that when and where I can, I shall attempt to repair


Photo Caption: World War II. Liberation of Holland. Capture of German soldiers by American liberators. Maastricht, The Netherlands, September 1944.


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Comment by Luara on December 29, 2013 at 6:02am

Buddhism places a lot of emphasis on surrendering to the present moment

"Surrendering" can mean letting yourself experience feelings that you have buried, because there's an authority one exerts over oneself, to push those feelings back.  I used to meditate a lot to bring up buried feelings, and "letting go" meant to me, experiencing those feelings, even though I was afraid of what would happen.

Comment by Luara on December 29, 2013 at 5:54am

"Surrender" can be a euphemism for people who grew up in bad families. 

That's because children have to surrender to the authority figures like parents who rule their lives.  Especially if the parents are controlling and domineering, and especially if the parents use tactics to control even the child's inner world.

There's a rhetoric around, where "learning to surrender" and "letting go" are positive, part of being mature.  It's thought to be "philosophical". 

People who come from bad families may use this rhetoric to justify to themselves when they are getting back into an abusive situation that echoes their childhood.  My brother did this - developed a "philosophical", "unruffled" surface personality and married an abusive woman, "surrendering" to her. 

There is so much anguish and infliction of anguish in the world, one should be very wary of the seduction of "surrender". 
Cult leaders like Jesus emphasize surrender, to get their followers to surrender to the cult. 

The only way I can positively understand "surrender" is to pick your battles.  When is something worth contending over - and when would contending over it be only a substitute for some more worthwhile and difficult struggle? 

Comment by Steve Earley on December 28, 2013 at 7:02pm

Buddhism places a lot of emphasis on surrendering to the present moment, or accepting the "now". It's really the mind's dissatisfaction that causes all of our problems, and we're always thinking about how things shouldn't be this way and how we've been put upon by the world... instead of accepting this moment and doing what we can to make the situation better, without frustration and futile worrying.



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