God, Grant me the serenity, to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
As I thought about this prayer that I so often recite, use and depend on, I did some meditating on it, something pretty profound struck me. All the years I’ve said this prayer I have been focusing on the the serenity part. All these years I have been asking God for peace of mind and comfort, calmness and peace. And for many years my Higher Power has come through. Suddenly after all this time the prayer took on a deeper meaning for me.
As I read it I realized that it contained four messages. First, “God, grant me serenity”. This it does. Prayer meditation and communication with the power greater than ourselves. Serenity and peace are the place of rejuvenation and life for me. How do I get there and maintain it? By the other three parts of that prayer.
The remaining three messages in that short but powerful prayer?
God, grant me the serenity…
1. To accept…things I can not change
2. To accept the courage…to change what I can
3. To accept the wisdom….to know the difference
Through my life I have gotten pretty good at accepting what I can not change. Sometimes I have battles with myself over this. Usually this is the road of finding out if I can change it. I couldn’t change my Mum’s illness, I can’t change another person, I can’t control the weather. I can’t control something beyond my control. It’s actually quite freeing to let something beyond my control go.
Those of us that live with the effects of alcoholism or addiction learn this quite well. We learn to accept that we can not change many things in our lives. We can’t for example change our past, not even 15 minutes ago. We can not change an event that has happened. We can not change death, it does and will come to us all. We can not change another person, their opinion of us, of their world or of their life.
These are important things to accept. It can bring us peace when we accept them, serenity, and contentment with the space and time we are in now. What is also important to remember is that doing nothing is an action. It is a choice often times made not because we have accepted that it is beyond our control but because we have accepted fear. Fear of being wrong, fear of failing, fear of making things worse. Sometimes this nagging fear is really a message that what we need is courage.
That takes us to the 2nd part of the prayer is “To accept…the courage…” Accepting courage intimates that courage is right there for the asking, if we are willing to accept it and be courageous. Sometimes the situation requires a little bit of courage and sometimes it requires a lot of courage. Sometimes courage is needed to change our own behavior, thoughts, opinions or in some cases long held beliefs. Accepting courage often times mean there something that needs to be done, changed or said that we have some fear of.
Courage is a curious thing. I can tell you that it took less courage to jump out of a plane than to admit some wrongs or make amends. It is a different kind of courage. Because it is an internal fear it is closer to us at every moment in our lives.
It takes courage to open up to learning and change ones self. New is different, new is learning, it is growth and adding to or changing what is already there, but different is not wrong, different is not bad and growth is a wonderful thing.
Many of my biggest regrets in life were not of actions taken but of things left undone, unsaid. I find this true of many people who have changed the direction of their lives and opted to live a life that is positive in it’s focus. Those things I regretted were normally left undone or unsaid because of fear, worry, resentment, anger, sadness all things that don’t feel good. Their relievers would have been courage, forgiveness, detachment and love. Some of those reasons for those feelings would have been relieved by acceptance of what could not be changed. Recognizing and accepting what can’t be changed opens the door and allows us to see what can be changed, what we can do, what we can say.
This is where the 3rd part of the prayer comes into play, accepting the wisdom. Sometimes its a lot of thought and sometimes it’s a yes or no kind of thing. Sometimes we know the answer but we don’t want to know the answer because ??????? Back to 2! Because it is a risky thing. It takes courage, the remedy to fear, to change what we can. It is there for the receiving, courage. Whether it’s ourselves we are changing or a move we are making or the choice to refrain from doing, saying or changing anything. Sometimes it’s back to 1 because we want to change what can not be changed.
All three of the elements of the Serenity Prayer lead us to the 4th element, the serenity we seek. It is all right there given to us if we are willing to accept it. Through meditation and thoughtful contemplation guided by our Higher Power we can take the wisdom, courage and accept what we can not change, we can also recognize what we CAN do.