Do You Surrender or “Turn it Over?”


My friend John has been asked to deliver a presentation to the recovery community about letting go, or in 12-step parlance, turning it over.

We talked about the challenges of turning it over and then taking it back.  We each confessed that we’re guilty of the back-and-forth, pull and push of any given challenge or drama that for us, necessitates turning it over.

Then we decided that it’s hard  to put into words what turning it over means.

After we talked a little more, I asked him whether turning it over was the child’s version of the adult’s surrender.

John thought about it for a bit and said, “Well, it does seem like surrendering is the final, ‘okay, God, I give up.  You can have it.'”

At first I thought he was right.  Now I’m thinking toe-may-toe/toe-mah-toe.

See what you think.

AA’s Step Three

While my upbringing in recovery is rooted in the 12 steps, I’also open to other teachings.  I love exploring ideas so long as they’re spiritually sound and cast no negative vibes.

Step Three, as we know, goes like this, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”  Admittedly, and taken out of context, that statement can be off-putting to newcomers who might rebel with a hearty, “WTF?”

But check out the language inherent in the step:  turning it over. 

The prayer associated with Step Three is beautiful, “God, I offer myself to Thee, to build with me and to do with me as Thy wilt.  Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.  Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of Life.  May i do Thy will always.”

That’s pretty much a willingness to surrender, wouldn’t you say?  The key, I believe, is your motivation behind the words.

The Buddhist 12-Step Approach

Kevin Griffin writes about distinguishing between our lower selves–the addicted, self-inflicted, destructive me–and our higher selves–the me that is more loving, compassionate and connected to a higher power.

Kevin writes in his Huffington Post blog, “If we are to get and stay sober, we need to live less from the lower and more from the higher self. Turning our will and our lives over is the way we do this.”

The Buddhists believe it’s all about intention; in other words, why you do something is more critical than what you do.

Let’s say I’m struggling with the upset of losing my job (wow–there’s a shocking example, right?).  The whole situation is really “eating my lunch.”

I can make a decision to turn it over and ask God (or any word you choose to insert) to remove it from me.  Okay, that’s done.  Check the box.

It sort of sounds like my intention is just to push it off my to-do list, doesn’t it?

But if my intention is really to move on, wish the former employer well while taking a deep compassionate breath, that’s different.

Committing to a better life

Do you see the difference in intention?

Kevin writes, “Turning our will over means that we now are clear about how we want to live, that we’ve committed ourselves to living skillfully and wisely . . . This shift of intention has a profound effect on the direction of our lives.

“Turning our lives over means that once we’ve changed our intention, we now change our actions.”

Okay, so turning it over isn’t as child-like as John and I first thought.

Here’s my final thought and I invite your conversation:  Turning it over is the practice of letting go.  Surrender is the final release.

Photo courtesy of amann

Join B Here Today

Each day offers 1,440 minutes of choices; every minute of this day requires a decision to choose peace over chaos, joy over despair and love over all other negative emotions. You don't have to decide alone! Join the B Here Today community--learn with us and share your experience, strength and hope about being present to ALL your moments. Enter your email address below to receive weekly articles, free resources and TONS of inspiration!

Email Address:

First Name:

Last Name:


  1. jerry brady says:

    Wow Great Blog Beth!! Your statement “Now I’m thinking toe-may-toe/toe-mah-toe.” is spot on!
    So does it matter what the world puts out there such as “turning it over”, “surrender” ? What I feel does matter is the Power “WE” give it each moment of our day! We are all wired in different ways so we will all hear and use things around us in many ways! The key is what power will “I” give it ! Do we ever truly give anything over or fully surrender anything forever? I know I dont! But I can tell you that doing so within myself gives me the power over it controlling my life,my day or any moment. By knowing that the joy,love and happiness that lives in me today is the direct result of co-creating with the Universe. These are the “Gifts” that are there to All who show up, who are “present,when we do “The Work”. What is the “Work”? Each person needs to design a plan that works for them. Morning quiet time,reflection… wow I could go on and on and on but hope you see what I mean. My main goal in my daily workout is going through the above process, and putting on my “Armour” before I step into the world each day ! I do know that it is MY JOB to live each moment with more “Intention” that is filtered through the “Love” filter not the “Fear” filter!

  2. Beth says:

    All good points, Jerry, and how good of you to share your thoughts with us. Ultimately, none of us has the right or wrong answer, and as you point out, each of us must search our own inner beings for the answers we find acceptable. Good stuff! Isn’t all of this fun?

    B well, my friend!

    • jerry says:

      Yes !! As we do The Work !! We then find out it is not work at all LOL It is as you say FUN !! I was slaped by the Universe when commenting earler ! Why I let the world get in and lacked focus ! Then the light goes off so I finished and felt I made no sense but let that go Wow ! Then BAM my Elevate Group met and we Had such a great time doing this weeks power point for sat !! It was a great and joyous day !! Hope your friend hit a “Hoem Run” with his presentation ! With Love Jerry

  3. Galen Pearl says:

    Very interesting distinction. I was thinking about it in connection to my word of the year last year–yield. To me, one aspect of yielding is to yield the floor, or yield the right of way, for God to be in charge. Is that more like surrender or turning it over? Hmm.

  4. Beth says:

    Yielding feels like surrendering to me, Galen. When I picture someone yielding, or surrendering, I see a deep bow with a graceful way of the arm, like, “you go on ahead.”

    Or it could be that the whole ball of wax is simply sighing the three-word prayer, “Okay, God, WHATEVER!”

    Thanks for weighing in!

Leave A Reply