I remember a movie from my reviewing days in which the protagonist had a motto of never giving up no matter what. This sentiment annoyed me at the time as does the sentiment of “Never Give Up” that floats around my Linked In network. So I asked myself the reasons why that sentiment bothers me and this came to mind.
First of all, I understand that we say this statement as a way to motivate people to go the distance. However, I find that telling someone to never give up has some toxicities leaching from it. This statement fits in with the “should” mentality and laced with guilt. For instance, I ran on the track and cross country teams as a high school student. The motto then was never give up and in a competitive sports setting that makes sense. However, it doesn’t make sense when a runner has a twisted knee and keeps training because the coach and team members equated giving up with wimping out. So I stuck out the pain and suffering to my knee only to end up with a knee that sticks when I run to this day.
My sense at the time was to leave the team and rest my knee, but the peer pressure and the guilt of quitting something again weighted heavily on me as it would with anyone. Since my family relocated several times (before I turned 12), I have a restless soul that wants to try many things, even if I fail. Failure doesn’t frighten me the way it does for many, but that doesn’t mean I don’t strive for perfection so I can be my best. I believe that failure is an excellent teacher since we learn more from our shortcomings than our victories. I also believe that we need to follow our hearts and in doing so that sometimes means walking away from situations that seem out of integrity with our highest good.
For instance, would we tell a woman enduring domestic violence to stay with her husband? Would we ask a refugee to stay in hostile territory and not give up the fight or find refuge somewhere else? Would we stick it out in a relationship that no longer serves either party or at a job that doesn’t allow us to grow in any way? I’m reminded of a quote by Marianne Williamson from I believe her book, Return to Love when she wrote, “Surrender Dorothy,” in regard to thinking we have to do everything ourselves and that no higher power watches our back. Sometimes that higher power asks us to leave a situation–that’s right, sometimes that guidance tells us to give up the struggle.
When we surrender our desires or our problems to a higher power (call it what you will), we make room for miracles to happen. We make room for synchronicity to flow into our lives and for healing to occur. When we constantly push ourselves beyond our limits like Olympic athletes on steroids, we allow our egos to take the lead. And guess what? We’ll never be good enough in our minds and then we’ll suffer our way through life, never giving up, with our eyes glued to some distorted prize we think we have to win. And if tragedy should strike such as in an accident or injury and our dream slips away from us, we call ourselves failures. However, it is at that exact moment the real quest or test begins. And when we have lost everything we finally get the lesson of surrendering while our ego takes a bruising.
I understand how people use the motivator “Never give up” but they do so in ignorance of the cycles of life. Everything living and non-living goes through the cycle of birth, growth, decay and death which leads to more decay that provides fertile soil so that birth becomes possible again. Depending where we find ourselves in this cycle, we either push ahead (birth and growth) or we allow decay to happen so that rebirth becomes possible later down the road. So there are times when giving up and surrendering are wise choices that open new doors.
Personally, I have given up many times in my life with and without guilt attached. I left jobs that didn’t suit me and I wish I never took in the first place. I walked away from relationships that left me feeling trapped, I ended friendships, I moved several times and not just in the same city, and I have left careers such as a music career to take care of my health. I gave up on projects that drained my resources and I have left endeavors temporarily to regroup and reassess. And during these times I tuned into my true desires and personal truth. I don’t regret giving up in these situations and I certainly don’t feel like a loser or a wimp, as my track coach probably would have labeled me.
Granted sometimes we need to stick out situations and work on problem-solving skills and develop resolve. We need to discern which direction to take in these cases. However, to tell someone to never give up might just lead to guilt and self-punishment. There are however something you never give up on which include yourself. We must honor ourselves and put ourselves first in that regard. And if our big dream comes from the heart and not the ego, never give up on that either. Often times people strive for goals that would harm and not benefit them because these dreams come from the ego and not the heart.
Instead of teaching people to suffer the insufferable for the sake of meeting some goal, why not teach others how to surrender to a higher power who sees beyond our limited horizons into a vast universe? Addicts who join groups like AA for instance learn to master the art of surrendering as does anyone who endures a situation that brings them to their knees or leaves them flat on their backs. Life is never as simple as a motto or a mantra. As we journey through life’s cycles, allow our hearts to dictate when it is time to toss in the towel and walk a new path.
I’m concluding this post with an inspirational video I found on the Ted Talk channel on YouTube. Caroline Casey who gave the talk did give up, surrendered and in doing so found her true life path.
Dr. Judith Orloff’s Ted Talk on The Ecstasy of Surrender is also worth a viewing.