Why Giving Up Is the Key to Happiness

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This past week, my son attended a private swimming lesson. The teacher stood beside him, holding his head and instructing him to float on his back. He strained anxiously, trying to follower her instructions.

Be calm and relaxed.

Align your body with the surface of the water.

Tilt your head back.

Keep your hips high.

Despite my son’s sincere effort, he did not last long. He struggled and thrashed and sunk.

The instructions were simple. The actual skill of floating was simple. But my son’s instinct was to be in control, to fight the water not submit to it.

Over and over again he tried, but could not surrender his will to the power of the water.

Watching this scene unfold made me think of something I once read in Masaru Emoto’s book The Secret Life of Water.

I must have been six or seven when the sea swallowed me up one day. I had gone out swimming with the boy next door, who was two years older than I.

We had gone out farther than we should have, and I suddenly began bobbing up and down, gasping for air. It was the first time I had experienced anything like it. I was only ten meters from land, but my feet didn’t touch the bottom. I panicked and started waving my arms and kicking my feet. But the more I panicked, the more I sunk, and soon I started to swallow water. I thought that was going to be the end of me, but a small boat approached and pulled me out of the water

When I went home and told my mother what had happened, she gave me some advice based on her own ability to swim and her understanding of water. “You can float if you just give in,” she said. She told me that if I let the water lift me instead of trying to resist it, it would pick me up and carry me.

Now whenever I go swimming in the ocean or a pool, I like to just lie on my back and let mself be carried in the arms of water.

Water is powerful – the source of life, beauty, abundance, renewal and cleansing.

And, water is a great teacher.

What does water teach us?  It teaches us that giving up is the key to happiness.  Giving up does not mean we abandon our principles.  It does not mean we abandon our hopes and dreams.  Rather it means we stop demanding control over everything and surrender our will to God.  When we give up, our attitude is not one of defeat but of meekness, willingness and submission.

When my sixth child was born, she became ill within a few days.  One evening as I sat nursing her, I realized that her coloring was wrong.  She had stopped breathing.  I called 911 in a panic.  The ambulance rushed her to the hospital where she spent the better part of a week.  The doctor said she had aspirated fluid into her lungs.  I was beside myself with fear and anxiety.

Things got even worse when we had a second scare and a second hospital stay.  Upon returning home, I held her all of the time.  I figured that nothing bad could happen as long as she was in my arms. I did not even sleep at night for fear of … what if? After a few days, I realized that I could not go on.  My whole family was suffering because of my fatigue and anxiety.

I needed sleep.

I needed faith.

I had to let go and trust God – to acknowledge that my baby’s life was in His hands, that if He wanted to take her home to heaven, I could not stop Him.  As I softened, I felt His love. And as I felt His love, I understood I could trust His judgment, His plan, His perspective. Only then was I able to sleep peacefully.

I am so grateful that God’s will was for her to get better.

At the time I believed I had learned my lesson. But it turns out, I’ve had to learn and relearn this lesson in each new circumstance.

The irony is that surrender does not come without a fight.

Maybe this is why scripture after scripture invites us to trust, to believe, to submit, to be meek, to be lowly of heart, to say “thy will be done.”

In Matthew 6:28-30 we read:

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Have you ever pondered this statement? Every plant is gifted the ability to fulfill the measure of its creation. By unseen demand, seeds attract the exact nutrients they need to grow and develop. A lily certainly needs different nutrients than a tomato plant. And somehow, each different kind of seed attracts what it needs, which is why you never get a tomato when you plant a lily.

This makes me think of our own development en utero.  There was no struggle or toil.  Rather, we were gifted the very nutrients we needed to develop into a whole and miraculous being—beating heart, acute senses, operative organs, arms and legs, beautiful baby skin.

And yet, after the miracle of my effortless creation, I often feel the need to take over and say “I can handle it from here on out Lord.”

Clearly, if God can create a miraculous human body, with very little effort on our part, He can certainly be trusted with our hearts and our lives.  He knows what we need and gives us the “good gifts” that enable us to stretch, flourish and grow.  But we have to trust Him.

Proverbs 3: 5-6 invites us to:

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths

The next time I feel myself leaning unto my own understanding, I am going to try remember my son’s swimming lesson and the experience and words of Masaru Emoto.

[My mother] told me that if I let the water lift me instead of trying to resist it, it would pick me up and carry me.

[Her] words have stuck with me over the years. Since that time, I have tried to let myself go with the flow as I gently move in the direction that I wish my life to take me.

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    • Shawna Morrissey says

      Good for you Amy! Sounds like you are doing better than me. I usually write about things I am learning, not things I am doing well. I definitely need to apply this principle better in my own life.

  1. Julie says

    comment shared via Facebook

    Gosh I don’t even know if I know how to “give up.” Better write another post. :)

  2. Jared says

    comment shared via Facebook

    Beautifully written. I think one of the most misunderstood statements I hear is that “you will never be given anything in this life that you can’t handle, or be tempted beyond that which ye are able”. In truth, we are Often given things that are more difficult than we are able to handle, and that is by design. To teach us and give us the opportunity to turn to The Lord and plead for Christ’s Grace to sustain us. We are given weaknesses and trials so we will turn to Him and rely on him. With God, nothing is impossible. Again, thanks for the post!

    • Shawna Morrissey says

      Thank you for your thoughts Jared! I agree. Life is definitely more than we can handle on our own. We must turn to the Lord. The more we are able to trust and submit to Him, the more we will learn and the happier we will be.

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