You know that poem, sermon, meme, whatever that goes:
"God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference."
It’s come to be called The Serenity Prayer and it’s usually attributed to a protestant theologian and minister named Reinhold Niebhr. Though researchers have recently uncovered earlier works by other authors with similar wording, Niebhr has gotten the byline for that version since 1943.
There’s a second half to the poem with a few good nuggets that rarely get quoted. It talks about “living one day at a time” and “enjoying one moment at a time” but also suggests you should only expect to be “reasonably happy in this life.”
Alcoholics Anonymous adopted the top part of The Serenity Prayer as part of its 12-step rehab program. I’ve never been to AA but that prayer still keeps popping into my head as a measure of how I should be looking at things…
That first line has taken some effort on my part--- accepting things I can’t change isn’t automatically part of my nature. I’ve never suffered fools gladly, for one thing. And there seems to be no limit to the supply of self-centered, unthinking, and foolish people around.
My past is another thing. I was letting my past control my present and so my future. But I think I’ve cut those chains. I don’t let things that happened long ago influence me nearly as much as it did.
I’ve had some luck “changing the things I can…” Little things, like not drinking Coke or other soft drinks--- stopped that many years ago. And bigger things, like not being so argumentative? I’ve got that, pretty much. No, the part that trips me up, the line in the prayer that gives me the most trouble is the “wisdom to know the difference” part.
I’ll be faced with a situation that, obviously, needs changing. Obvious to me. The answer is right there… All it would take was a few easy tweaks. “If only they’d change this and stop doing that other thing they’ve been doing wrong, it’d be so much better.”
I get: whoa, whoa, whoa there buddy. Who says anything needs changin’? Maybe we like things just the way they are, just the way they’ve always been. Maybe this is the way we do things and we don’t need some judgmental wiseass passing judgment on how we do things!
But--- But--- But--- Courage or serenity? Serenity or courage? That’s where I get stuck.
Knowing the difference between a mound of clay I can mold and a solid brick wall I can bang my head up against--- I’m not sure I’ve been fully granted that yet.
# # # # #
I’ve got a Facebook page with different stuff on it. Please “like” it! And be sure to roll over the Like button, then click “get notifications” on the drop-down menu, that way Mark Zuckerberg’s new filtering system won’t keep you from knowing when I post something.
# # # # #
# # # # #
Just enter your email address in the box below, click “create subscription,” and you’re all set to receive alerts whenever I post a new Open Heart blog; almost like getting a wake-up call in one of those swanky hotels. It’s spam-free and you can opt out any time you’d like. Enjoy!