Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Is Surrender Really About a White Flag?

The old cartoons always had two opponents in the heat of battle and finally up from a hole, or coming out of a cave was a white flag signalling surrender.  I personally do not know the history of the white flag but I do have personal experience with the idea of surrender.  We’ve come to a place in our culture that we have been taught that surrender is about giving up.  The truth is that surrender is not about giving up in totality; it’s about giving up the struggle.  The self-imposed sense of struggle is what comes with release.  Some people find it incredibly freeing and others find it to be the scariest experience on earth and both are probably true.

Want to know the unfortunate part in the equation?  At a time, like the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness, when surrender would be a time save, an energy booster, and a path to clarity we hold on to what we believe is best because our skewed views of the world have worked so well in the past.  The reality is that’s not true, but it’s a good illusion, and now with the diagnosis the idea of surrendering (based on our old definition) feels like defeat.  I guess I’m wondering why we have to exhaust every possible idea before we surrender.  Couldn’t we use our personal resources better?  I heard a song yesterday and a line in the song caught my attention, “we’re all one phone call from being on our knees”.  What comes to mind when you hear those words?

I think surrender is an easy concept.  Imagine yourself swimming upstream against a strong current, can you feel the drain, the exhaustion, and energy battling you every stroke of the way?  Now imagine yourself swimming downstream with the current…notice any differences?  Surrender is that turns the tide for you.  It’s those times when you are looking for answers and everything seems to be going against you…ask yourself why that might be?  I know from personal experience I feel that way when I believe I know better than my doctors, my own common sense, or my body.

Surrender shouldn’t be a negative.  It shouldn’t be fraught with shame.  Discard the old connotations of the white flag and raise a new flag for surrender; I think it will carry you far!


I've lived my life in service to others. I'm focused on mental health and how it impacts our relationships, culture, and society. Through creative expression and narrative I believe we can impact change.

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