Surrender Equals Control (Huh?)

April 19, 2012

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by Kim Childs, CPPC

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.” –Herman surrenderHesse

Last year I interviewed a man who leads personal development programs with the help of a horse. Specifically, Brian Reid puts people who are stuck and struggling on top of his horse, Brenda Lee, to get them out of their heads and into their hearts.

When Brian’s clients climb on the horse, relax and release tension all the way down to their, ahem, bottoms, they start to feel more trusting and empowered. From this place, he says, they can envision a successful resolution to any issue they’re grappling with.

To explain this phenomenon, Brian says, “They understand that surrender equals control.”

I later pondered these paradoxical words in the wake of a huge shift that happened in my life. In truth it happened to my husband but, because I was trying so hard to control his life, it happened to me, too.

My husband is an African immigrant who left behind his life, language, family and electrical career to marry me. I’ve consequently felt pretty responsible for his welfare over here and tried my best to help him succeed. Being a Type A personality with a streak of control freak, I’ve also attempted to engineer most aspects of my husband’s American life, including his career path.

For several years we searched and applied for electrical jobs while my husband held down a supermarket job. I employed all of my networking and public relations skills on the quest, writing impressive cover letters and cold-calling electricians. I printed up business cards for my husband before he’d mastered enough English to pronounce the words on them, and I urged him to enroll in trade school to work towards his Massachusetts license and impress potential employers.

As tuition bills mounted and months passed without so much as a “Thanks for your application,” my husband became disheartened and I grew more desperate. I didn’t know if we were up against racism, xenophobia, a sagging economy or all of the above, but I knew that insisting upon this career path was draining the joy from us.

In the midst of this dark time I sat down to pray one morning and started to speak the words “I surrender,” choking on the words as a tidal wave of emotion gushed forth. All of the anger, resentment, frustration, disappointment and heartache that I felt about the situation came pouring out as I cried. Eventually, the tears subsided and I quietly released my ambition for my husband, asking a higher wisdom to prevail.

A few days later I was talking with someone in the renewable energy field when it occurred to me: Should we consider a related path? I consulted my husband and discovered that he was completely willing to change professional gears in order to meet his ultimate goals, financial security and job satisfaction.

“God knows what I want and God will show me my way,” was what he actually said.

And so we became willing to surrender the electrical dream, prayed for guidance, and reached out to our community one last time for leads and luck. Within weeks my husband had an entry-level technician job in a related industry with good pay, full benefits, appreciative employers and opportunities for advancement. It happened with no cover letter, resume or business cards, and he received the offer during his first and only interview.

I was dizzy for days from the speed of these events.

I’ve come to realize that when I’m holding tightly to specific agendas and outcomes, it’s usually because I fear that my needs won’t be met. In the grip of that fear, I lose control of myself and I lose sight of other options.

However, when I identify a desire, take inspired action, surrender the results and allow something bigger to take over I feel more peaceful and, ultimately, in control. There’s the paradox.

I’m not saying it’s easy to “Let go and let God,” as they say in Twelve Step parlance, but I find that it can build faith and trust. It also cultivates peace of mind, unlike, say, obsessive thinking. When I gnaw like a dog on the bone of my willfulness, all I get is a sore jaw.

A student of mine recently remarked that the desires she holds most lightly are the ones that manifest most easily for her, often in unexpected ways. Thinking back on my own life, I can attest to the truth of that experience.

While I may not always get what I want (and who’s to say that that’s a bad thing, given the vagaries of my mind?), I can aim in that direction, do my part, and hope that I’ll get what I need.

Kim Childs, CPPC, is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, Creativity, and Midlife Transitions. Click here to learn more and schedule an initial consultation.


  • Shrinkette

    I teared up reading this, Kim. Beautifully expressed, and with humility and compassion for yourself and your husband. We all learn so much from your journey.

    • Julia Flynn

      I second this. I felt my heart soften or maybe it opened as I read your words that remind me how life truly works. It’s also an invaluable reminder for me to hold lightly and allow the support of spirit to bring the unknown “it” forward or inward or toward me. Thanks Kim for sharing your view, experience, and heart with me.

  • Linda

    “When I gnaw like a dog on the bone of my willfulness . . . ”

    What a powerful image, Kim, for a powerful insight. I will use it as a catalyst the next time I’m resisting letting go (too often, I’m afraid).

    Thanks to your husband also for being a guru for us. His faith sounds immense.

  • Lynn Robinson

    Kim – What a powerful message and so beautifully written. Thank you for taking the time to share your story.

  • Cynthia Major

    Thank you Kim for your beautiful and deeply inspiring story. Congrats to both you and your husband!

  • Maisie

    Bravo Kim!

  • Linda Guttman

    Love it, Kim. Just what I needed today.

  • Nina Coil

    I am overjoyed by your news, Kim, and touched by the success of “letting go” which I have also found to be true. Whenever I push my agenda I do not get the results I want – it is only by small, sometimes micromovements in the general direction that I occasionally encounter great leaps. So mazel tov to your dear husband and peace and joy to you!! Nina

  • Amy Rubin

    Often the universe sends us messages just when we need them. This speaks to me so strongly. Thank you, Kim. And good luck to your husband!

  • Beth Cohen

    Great message Kim, and a beautifully told story!
    And Hooray for Laye! Beaming my happiness at and for both of you!

  • Laighne Fanney

    Kim, Your wisdom is so inspiring and so accessible. My prayer for you is that more and more people have access to your insights and that this bring you abundance. Love, Laighne

  • Lilia Flores

    Thank you so much for your sharing,

    I feel so happy for you and your husband and I’m so grateful of the remainder of Faith that he showed. That was one of my goals as we finish this session of the Artist’s Way. It was also interesting that while I was reading on my phone, my fingers touched the screen accidentally and highlighted a single word: Faith…. yet another remainder that made me cry… Thank you, thank you, thank you

  • Annie Anderson

    Thank you again for your thoughtful writing. Once again, it speaks to exactly where I am.

  • Isabel Phillips

    Amazing grace! Brilliantly told. Out of the depths of despair into the arms of hope. Thanks for the inspiration, Kim.

  • Kathy Conneilly

    Wonderful story Kim! Life does work in amazing ways. It gives me hope that I will handle a very difficult problem going on in my life. Thank you for sharing.

  • bruce

    Ahh, yet another way of looking at a path to opportunity. Great lesson to work into your future work with others, Kim. I, too loved the dog and bone metaphor. Your story reminds me of the brother in my family who carried a silent tool box, who fixed the damage caused by his unruly siblings. And it reminds me of the times as a young child when an older sibling tried very hard to control my behavior. As we grow up, it is rewarding to see through these habit patterns that we form, perhaps learned early on in life.

  • Mary

    Oh Kim, this entry is so poignant yet funny! At once tearful and joyous. So like life in it’s contradictions and revelations. Like others who have responded to this ( and obviously there are a bunch of us!!!) I especially loved your analogy -“gnaw like a dog on the bone of willfulness….” too funny! You found the flow and you are moving in concert with the universe! Resistance has dropped away.
    What an amazing story! Thank you. Mary


    What a beautifully expressed plea to get us all to think outside the box!

  • Julie

    Thank you for sharing this with us! This has been my on going struggle. To surrender to God direction and trust that his great love and abundance will follow! That He will meet me in ways unexpected. He has so often given and met my needs and yet I still struggle to allow myself to surrender to his goodness. This is so perplexing to me and yet again I see through your story that I need only to ….Let Go…. Thank you for your timely and candid sharing.

  • Cynthia

    As a fellow control freak, I really responded to the content of this post. And it’s so well-written. A pleasure to take the time and read. Thank you!

  • Ramona

    Ahhhhh Kim

    Just reading your sharing, I can feel the sense of ease & fuller breathe in my own body. Your words are perfection!!! I am sooo happy for you both and so thankful for your heartful, insightful sharing. You are a gift to this world and I adore you!!!

  • Maria Elena

    Viva Laye!

    Love, love the message. But I must say that your actual writing in this piece is unbelievably fabulous!

    Hugs & kisses.

  • Miriam Evers

    Thanks Kim for this powerfully written reminder about the power of surrender.

  • Adriana Cerundolo

    Simply beautiful.

  • Katleen

    Thank you so much for the inspiration you bring.

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