M.A.N.S. Work: Surrender


We became willing to yield our will and our lives to the care of God (or Spirit, or a Higher Power), and to submit to and trust in the Divine Will.

We surrendered all forms of homosexual behavior and all associations with a homosexual life, taking the actions of withdrawal, surrender and escape.

We uncovered and surrendered any defenses, obstacles or resistance to change that we had been holding onto, whether consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally.

Surrender is an integral part of every aspect of A M.A.N.S. Journey out of homosexuality. We found, for instance, that:

  • In order to develop our masculine identity and our connection with the world of men, we had to surrender our fear of heterosexual men and our prejudices and defenses against them.

  • In order to develop authenticity in our own emotional lives and in our relationships with others, we had to surrender shame, secrecy, isolation, passivity and a victim identity.

  • In order to fulfill our true needs, we had to surrender our inability or refusal to meet our core needs for affirmation, attention, connection and affection in constructive, healing ways.

But surrender is more than a component of developing masculinity, developing emotional authenticity, and fulfilling true needs. Surrender is necessary, even vital, in and of itself for any man who seeks to be free from persistent homosexual attractions, for this reason: A man with homosexual attractions will usually maintain them unless he consciously surrenders them. The psyche can incorporate homosexuality into an otherwise emotionally healthy life. Without surrender, it is possible for a man to be emotionally mature, living the principles of masculinity, authenticity, and need fulfillment, and remain homosexual. With surrender, his heart begins to change.

What do we mean by surrender? Surrender may be understood first by what it is not. It is not resistance nor suppression. It is not willpower, nor self-control. It is not fighting, nor swearing that we will never do it again (whatever “it” is). It is not giving in, nor even giving up (unless one is giving up white-knuckled resistance, willpower and fighting).

Rather, surrender is letting go. It is choosing to release specific obstacles – whatever is holding you back and hurting you. It is a deliberate mental, emotional, and spiritual attitude of giving away these obstacles to God (or Spirit, or a Higher Power) in a spirit of humble trust in the wisdom, strength and goodness of the Divine Power.

When we talk of surrender, we mean, first and foremost, the yielding of our own self-will to a Higher Power or Higher Good. It is the essential experience of submitting to and trusting in the Divine Will — living for something better or nobler than one’s own selfish pleasure. A critical component of this type of surrender is the surrender of control (or the illusion of control, more accurately) while giving over the power to direct one’s life into the hands of the Divine. To surrender is to replace resistance with acceptance, suppression with submission.

Surrender is the cornerstone principle of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, and other Anonymous programs. Of course, homosexuality is not addiction, and addiction is not homosexuality (although a great many people who start down the path of homosexual behavior do become addicted to the sexual “rush” of meeting needs in homosexual ways). But millions of people across the world have found that these principles of surrender, yielding and submission to the Divine Will apply to every type of struggle imaginable.

The Twelve Steps state:

  • We admitted that we were powerless—that our lives had become unmanageable. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity (Steps One and Two).

  • We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him (Step Three).

  • We became entirely ready to have God remove all our defects of character. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings (Steps Six and Seven).

  • We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out (Step Eleven).

True surrender requires us to release anything from our lives that prevents change from happening — any place, person, relationship, group, practice, habit, defense, idea, belief, way of being, anything. To surrender is to let go of let go of ideas, prejudices, defenses, old resentments, and behaviors that block change.

This attitude of release is illustrated with a native folk tale of how monkeys can be caught in the wild with a very simple trap. Fruit is placed in a trap with a hole just large enough for the monkey to insert his open palm. But once the monkey grasps the fruit, his fist is too large to remove without letting go of his prize. All that is needed to free himself is to release the fruit, and his hand will slip easily out of the trap. But determined and angry, he fights against the trap, trying harder and harder to have the fruit and his freedom too. In his stubbornness, he loses both (See Sexaholics Anonymous, page 85).

The book Alcoholics Anonymous explains:

“Our whole trouble had been the misuse of willpower. We had tried to bombard our problems with it instead of attempting to bring it into agreement with God’s intention for us” (page 40).

In the book Breaking the Cycle of Compulsive Behavior, authors Martha Nibley Beck and John C. Beck write:

“The very common phenomenon of berating an addict for not having enough willpower is…both incorrect and very destructive, for willpower is a coercive agent. As such, it intensifies the conflict” within the individual rather than freeing him from it ” (p. 188).

Authors Dean Byrd and Mark Chamberlain add in their book, Willpower is Not Enough:

“The first and most obvious problem with depending exclusively on willpower to resist temptation is that, all too often, it simply fails us. The second…is that it may actually serve to worsen the cycle of temptation, where we constantly vacillate between self-denial and self-indulgence…Ironically, our constantly renewed resolution can actually fuel the forbidden desire” (p. 5-6)

The solution, then, is not willpower but surrender:

“When we surrendered out of our own enlightened self-interest, it became the magic key that opened the prison door and set us free” (Sexaholics Anonymous, page 83).

Surrendering Homosexual Behavior

“Everything begins with (sexual) sobriety. Without sobriety, there is no program of recovery” (Sexaholics Anonymous, p. 77).

Critics and skeptics argue that, sure, anyone can stop engaging in outward homosexual behavior, but that hardly constitutes inward change when the man still has homosexual feelings and is simply suppressing them. Abstinence alone is not change, they say.

We disagree.

  • First, in our experience, changing engrained behavior patterns was actually one of the most difficult challenges of the transition; it is not as easy nor as insignificant as some of the skeptics make it sound.

  • Second, it is very often the outward homosexual behavior that is causing the great majority of a man’s distress. He may have little trouble accepting and living with unwanted homosexual feelings in himself as long as they don’t drive him to do things he later regrets.

  • Third, and perhaps most important, when distressing outward behaviors are surrendered (as opposed to suppressed), inward changes follow. Behavior change drives attitude change. It effects identity change. It effects a man’s feelings about himself, lifts guilt, and helps strengthen his connection to Spirit. And most critically, when a man consistently surrenders homosexual lust, our experience is that over time, homosexual feelings lessen in both frequency and intensity.

In the book Desires in Conflict, Joe Dallas writes:

“Some people argue that behavior change isn’t really change at all. But they’re wrong. When a person’s behavior changes, his life changes. If a man has been a drunkard for 20 years, then joins Alcoholics Anonymous and stays sober, he has definitely changed. His sobriety will have an impact on all parts of his life, improving his attitude, relationships, and job performance. Will an occasional desire for a drink nullify his claim to have changed? Hardly. So it is with (you). If you’ve been homosexually active and reach a point of consistent sexual sobriety, you’ll have changed. Conscience, confidence and self control will all have been affected by your abstinence. There’s no area of your life that will not feel the impact of it” (p.46).

Some of us found that discontinuing our homosexual relationships and behaviors was an important first step in our change, in order to begin to “dry out” from our sex “drug,” discovering underlying needs that we had been meeting artificially through homosexual behavior, and become more sensitized to feeling God’s love and guidance.

Others of us found we were not ready to break from those gay lovers, friends, places and habits until we had grown through at least some of the process of developing masculinity, developing authenticity, and finding alternative, meaningful ways to fulfill our underlying needs.

But whichever approach we took — beginning to withdraw from homosexual relationships and behavior at the outset, or doing so later in the process — one way or another the time came when we were ready to put our homosexual lives behind us. Many of us found it scary. Some of us experienced some real sadness about letting go of some of the relationships and activities we had, frankly, enjoyed. We had doubts about our ability to sustain change and even second thoughts about supposed “opportunities” we would miss…dreams of fantasy relationships that might someday finally feel right and bring us real joy at last (though they seldom if ever had before)…and concerns about our ability to cope with life without pornography, homosexual sex or other lust.

But universally, this we knew: A homosexual identity and life were not working for us, and we would never really change as long as we continued to identify as homosexual or engage in homosexual behaviors.

But we didn’t give. We surrendered.

We found that we need to make two things happen at once. Instead of suppressing and abstaining, we needed to submit and fulfill. When we felt homosexual lust kick in, we had to immediately surrender it up to our Higher Power, and at the same time we needed to discover the underlying, non-sexual core need and work to fulfill it in a non-sexual way, instead of through homosexual lust.

One man describes his own experience with surrender (as opposed to suppression) and need fulfillment:

“When I was in the throes of withdrawal from my lust cycles, I had to learn a whole new way of responding to lust. Instead of gritting my teeth and clenching my fists, trying to force the feeling away, as I had always done before, I would close my eyes and imagine a channel of light going up from my body to the heavens. I would open my palms toward heaven and say something like, ‘God, I release this feeling over to you. If I try to resist and fight it, I will lose, because it is stronger than I am. So I give it to you, and trust you to handle it for me instead.’ In submitting my desires to God’s greater power, the urgency and control they held over me lessened enough that I could make a phone call to a mentor or friend, and ask for support. I would immediately then make plans to meet my authentic needs for companionship and connection in a non-sexual, fulfilling way.”

Joe Dallas writes that, as long as a person continues to engage in homosexual acts, the needs they fulfill will remain repressed. The needs can’t be identified as long as homosexual behavior covers them up and keeps them unconscious. And as long as they remain unidentified, they can’t be recognized and fulfilled in more legitimate ways.

“When homosexual behavior is removed, the needs behind it become more acute than ever. That’s why many people have such a difficult time abstaining from it. It’s not just sexual temptation that draws them back, but the desire to satisfy these needs in the old, tried-and-true way…

“Suppose a man’s homosexual behavior satisfied his need for a nurturing male to take care of him. He turns away from this behavior, only to find that he needs such a nurturer more than ever. But the only way he’s gotten that nurturing in the past is through homosexuality. He hasn’t yet learned nonsexual ways of getting what he needs, so he goes through a season of waiting while the need continues to throb away…But that’s exactly how legitimate needs are eventually satisfied! First they make themselves known. Only then can a person plan legitimate, nonsexual ways to satisfy them” (Desires in Conflict, p. 119-121).

Complicating this scenario even further is the fact that the man in transition out of a gay identity or gay behaviors is often working a program of authenticity and overcoming his defense mechanisms (such as work-aholism or other forms of escapism) and “false emotions” or inhibitory feelings (like shame, depression or anxiety). He may be digging into his past to understand the source of some of these feelings and coping mechanisms in order to understand their origins and how they have served him. This kind of self-exploration is sure to expose emotional pain — pain that, in the past, he has covered up with homosexual behavior whenever it became too uncomfortable.

So it should not be surprising that some of us actually experienced an increase in homosexual feelings and lust when we stirred up our feelings and exposed long-suppressed pain. This could be distressing, and make us question whether our efforts were productive or counter-productive. But we came to see that it was a necessary part of the journey if we were to dig out our homosexual problems from the root, instead of dealing only with the surface behavior.

What We Did to Effect Change:

Here, then, are some of the changes that many of us made:

  1. We identified and then surrendered false beliefs that kept us stuck.

    • We surrendered disbelief in the possibility of change.

    • We surrendered disbelief in the power of God or a Higher Power to lead us to change.

    • We surrendered our insistence on changing all by ourselves, through willpower alone, without God’s intervention.

    • On the other hand, we also surrendered our expectation that God do all the work of changing us, without our having to change anything about ourselves or to do anything different with our lives.

    • We surrendered our belief in or acceptance of false, gay ideologies that said we were born gay and destined to engage in homosexual relationships. And we surrendered the gay fantasy of finding the perfect male partner who would save and heal us.

  2. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God – to submit our own desires to his. We prayed at least daily for knowledge of his will for us and the desire and ability to carry it out.

    • We opened our hearts to a willingness to do whatever it might take to make our lives right with God, and to do whatever he might guide us to do.

    • When we struggled with pitting self-will against God’s will, we learned to take a step back and only become willing to be willing one day. This helped us draw closer to surrendering one day instead of fighting against it when we were not yet ready.

  3. We made a decision to surrender all forms of homosexual behavior and all associations with a homosexual life. We took the actions of withdrawal, surrender and escape.

    • We broke off ties to our homosexual pasts and told members of our support network of our intentions.

    • We discontinued homosexual relationships and habits, threw away destructive books, magazines, videos and other materials, and took ourselves out of environments that could tempt us to return to them.

    • Some of us mapped out our lust cycles on paper to help us recognize events, feelings and stresses in our lives that often triggered lust and longing for male comfort. We developed an “emergency escape plan” for times when we would be tempted to act on homosexual feelings. We shared this plan with mentors or others of our support network, and agreed to very practical steps we would take to interrupt the cycle of lust as soon as it started.

    • We became willing to stop inputting new images of homosexual lust, fantasies and experience into our brains and memory banks.

  4. When we felt homosexual urges or desires, we surrendered them up to God by saying a prayer of surrender or submission, giving away the thought or desire instead of fighting it, and asking God to take it away. We then sought to identify the core emotional need underneath the homosexual desire, and took immediate and deliberate steps to meet the need in non-sexual, emotionally fulfilling ways.

    • We focused, too, on altering our thought life. We surrendered erotic fantasies and practiced redirecting erotic thoughts to other subjects rather than dwelling on them or fighting against them.

  5. We explored any defenses or resistance to change that we might be holding onto, whether consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally, and worked a program of surrender for each obstacle or barrier we could identify.

    • Common barriers included unwillingness to trust, unwillingness to risk, unwillingness to forgive, resistance to giving up a victim identity, resistance to opening old wounds, or many others.

  6. After we had fully experienced and worked through past hurts, we became willing to forgive unconditionally those we felt had wronged us. We thereby freed ourselves from years of pent-up hurt and resentment.

  7. We recognized our own weaknesses and took responsibility for our own part in creating problems in our lives. We became willing to have God remove all our personal defects and humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings.

  8. We acknowledged our own wrongs to those we had harmed and made appropriate amends, without expecting anything in return.

  9. We surrendered to being in process.

    • We accepted that, as imperfect human beings, we were on a lifelong journey of growth and change.

    • We made peace with ourselves as we were, right now, to whatever degree we were changed or unchanged. We made peace with the presence of unwanted attractions, even while working to diminish them.

  10. We came to peace with an imperfect world.

    • We accepted that there were some things about ourselves we could not change, some circumstances we could not change — and absolutely nothing about another person that we could change.

    • We accepted that there were some desires and needs that we could not and would not meet, at least not perfectly.

    • We discovered that we could be at peace with imperfection and happy in situations that were not our ideal.

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