I recently talked with a woman, Mariah, who communicated that she was quite unhappy with her life. She had made a mess of two marriages, her children ran over her all the time, and she was in a relationship that was fraught with confusion and pain. She had studied Real Love for several months, but she still clung stubbornly to doing everything her way. She hadn’t let go of any of her Getting and Protecting Behaviors, nor had she taken any steps to quit using any of her favorite forms of Imitation Love.
“So you already know what it takes to find Real Love and change your life,” I said. “When are you going to take it seriously and actually do something about it?”
“But I am doing something about it,” Mariah said.
“No, you’re just piddling around. You still do almost everything your way, but you throw in a few Real Love steps here and there and deceive yourself that you’re doing something different.”
“So what are you suggesting I do?” she asked.
“Let go of the side.”
“What do you mean?”
“You want to learn to swim, but you won’t let go of the side of the pool. I completely understand it, because letting go is frightening, but letting go is also the only way to learn.”
“So how do I let go?”
“Let somebody guide you. Let somebody really help you. Pick somebody who can love you, and really submit to their guidance.”
“Submit to who?”
“Oh, I don’t care. Submit to anybody who can love you and teach you how to live differently.”
“I really don’t care, just anybody who can love you and teach you.”
“I repeat, Mariah: I really don’t care who you submit to, but you obviously need to submit to somebody who can help you.”
“I don’t like the word submit.”
“I’m sure you don’t. You don’t like the idea of anybody telling you what to do or controlling you, right?”
“Because you’ve had a number of people in your life who have told you what to do, and who have controlled you. They’ve controlled you to do what they wanted for selfish reasons, and in the process they’ve hurt you, haven’t they?”
Mariah began to weep. The answer was obvious.
“So you’ve spent the entire rest of your life protecting yourself from everyone,” I said, “assuming that everyone would hurt you as those few people did when you were young. And in the process you’ve kept yourself alone and miserable. I’ll bet that hasn’t been much fun.”
Still weeping, Mariah mumbled, “No, it hasn’t been.”
“Sweetie, you’ve already proven that you can’t change your life by yourself. You’ve proven it over and over, hundreds of times, over decades. Now, you can keep trying if you want, or you could finally let go of doing things your way and let somebody else really help you. But that would mean submitting.”
“You’re suggesting that I let go of who I am.”
I chuckled. “That would be a shame. You’d hate to let go of being empty and afraid and angry and defensive and alone all the time. Hate to lose all that.”
Mariah smiled. “You have a point there.”
“Besides, all those things aren’t really who you are. They’re just your reaction to a lack of Real Love in your life. If you were to find enough Real Love, you’d quit feeling empty and afraid. You’d quit using Getting and Protecting Behaviors all the time, and finally you’d discover who you really are — probably for the first time.”
“I still don’t like that word submit.”
“Oh shoot, you already submit to pretty much anybody that walks by. You do whatever anybody wants in order to win their approval. You submit to your boyfriend. You submit to your children. You submit to emptiness and fear. Darlin’, you submit to foolish things all the time. Why not finally submit to true principles? Why not submit to people who really love you and want to help you? It’s not like you can’t change your mind at any time.”
“I just don’t know.”
“That’s exactly the point, Mariah.”
“You just said it: I don’t know. You really don’t know. You don’t know much of anything, so how can you lose by submitting to people who do?”
“How can you say I don’t know anything?”
“What is our highest purpose in life?”
“To be happy.”
“Yes, and are you happy?”
“Well . . .”
“You can’t change your mind now. You came to me specifically because you were not happy. You’ve blown two marriages. You hate being around your kids, and they don’t much like you. You’re in a relationship right now that is terrible. You’re depressed. You’re lost and confused and afraid. Your life really sucks.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“So if our purpose is to be happy, and you’re miserable, wouldn’t it be fair to say that you don’t know anything — at least about what matters most?”
“Wow, that’s sobering.”
Despite all we had talked about, Mariah decided she just couldn’t submit to anybody — even though she already was submitting to people to win their approval, as mentioned above — so she remained lost for several more months. Finally, though, she made a decision to exercise some faith in a few loving friends, and she submitted to their directions about finding and sharing Real Love.
We later spoke. “I understand what you meant now by submitting,” she said.
“What do you understand?” I asked.
“I just had to put my trust in the hands of people who loved me. Trusting people who had clearly demonstrated they loved me was quite different from submitting to those people who had hurt me long ago. Somehow I had made everybody the same, and that wasn’t right. It was keeping me afraid.”
“So how’s it going now?”
“Submitting isn’t bad at all. In fact, without trusting and relying on these people, I would never have realized many of the things I’ve learned, and I know I would never have felt as loved as I do now.”
I was a drug addict for years, using narcotics to dull the pain I felt in my soul caused by a lack of Real Love. I knew I needed to quit using drugs — they were literally killing me and were causing a long list of negative effects on the people around me — but I just couldn’t stop. I finally made the decision to enter a drug treatment facility and submit to the care and guidance of the people there.
I have rappelled off 300-foot cliffs, crawled through frighteningly small spaces a thousand feet deep in caves, scuba dived with sharks, and canoed down Olympic-class whitewater rapids, but I have never been as afraid as that day I walked up the driveway to enter drug treatment. In the act of submitting to the care of others, I had to give up my pride, my old ways of dealing with pain, and — most frightening of all — my illusion of control. But there was no other way to change the direction of my life.
And so it is for most of us. How can we change our lives without help? And how can we receive that help without fully submitting to it? Submission is a blend of humility and faith that will forever change our lives. And through that submission, we create the opportunities to finally find the Real Love that will bring us the happiness we’ve always wanted.
Replace your fear and confusion with peace and happiness.
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