Friday, November 16, 2007

Serenity, Courage, and Wisdom

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change; the courage to change the things i can;and the wisdom to know the difference. The Serenity Prayer is the common name for an originally untitled prayer written by the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1930s or early 1940s. For more information about the Serenity Prayer...

A friend and I were talking about why I'm called the Zen Queen. She asked, "How can you be so calm?" I had to think about it for a while. I think it's because I took the Serenity Prayer as my general "motto" for life. Everyone has some tenet that they live by. It may be the Golden Rule or a quotation or a religious saying.

Many years ago when one of my children was involved in all sorts of dangerous behaviors, I attended Families Anonymous. In many respects it saved my life. At the beginning of each meeting we recited the Serenity Prayer. And I found it good.

There is a lot of old wisdom contained in this relatively short sentence. The sentence as printed at the beginning of this blog is the way it was originally written. Did you notice that the i's are lower case? That's one of the first things you learn in any of the anonymous programs... that it's not all about you. So. Small i's.

Serenity is a product of acceptance. There are certain things in life that we cannot change. I will never be five foot ten. I'll never be younger than I am right now. I know that you're thinking well that's just silly. Everyone knows you can't change things like that. What about bad judgment, hurtful words, or stupid choices? They're in the past. Things in the past are simply that--past. They cannot be changed. You can ask for forgiveness. You can make amends. But you can't change the past. "Grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change."

Courage is a little understood word today. We equate it with the military mostly or heroic deeds. But courage is really taking a leap of faith. It requires an immense leap of faith to make some changes. Changing a job. Changing a life style. Changing an address. Eating healthier. Going for a walk. Getting up an hour earlier. All of those require us to take a leap of faith that there is something better out there. Change is uncomfortable. Just ask anyone who's moved recently. We like our comfy little niches in life. Change requires us to move out of our comfort zones and try something new. "Courage to change the things i can."

Wisdom is mistaken for intelligence or education. Some of the wisest people I know are small children. They cut through the trappings of adulthood and go right for the heart of the matter. Unfortunately, as adults we don't gain wisdom without experience. Frequently the experiences are painful or bitter. It takes a while to understand the difference between "book learning" and "horse sense". With that hard won wisdom, we can determine whether the circumstances require change or acceptance. Sometimes it's best to simply accept the place we are in life. Other times we need to seize the courage to change. The wisdom we've accumulated helps us decide which choice to make. "The wisdom to know the difference."

I use these three short phrases to get through life. My child calls with an emergency. Not my emergency--but her emergency. The immediate visceral response is to leap in to save her. But wait. That would deprive her of hard won experience so that she can gain her own wisdom. So what exactly is required of me? Perhaps... all she really needs now is encouragement to follow the path of serenity, courage and wisdom.


Be sure to stop by Amarinda's Place where she has the Saga (boy did she get inventive) and she also had the low down on her fellow author's bad habits at Over at Kelly's place she interviewing author Sarah Richmond and of course she has today's tidbit about Australia at Blessings on your day!


  1. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change but bloody hurry - that's my prayer. But really, I admire you Anny. You keep us balanced when we want to run around like headless chooks in a panic or in anger. I talk to you and think - 'oh my god I am such a bitch. I need to be a better person. See what an influence you are? Never change Anny Cook

  2. I used to joke that since my wisdom teeth never appeared, I have no wisdom:) However, I've seen a dramatic change in me the past year; I accepted I could not change the inevitable move; hubby has vehemently fought against it. I've taken hops of faith, and improved our situation somewhat; the giant Leap is yet to come. I've watched a dear friend take a huge leap (more like a catapult!) and is being successful in one area; unfortunately, she's run into a road block with the other one, but is still determined to charge ahead. She's an inspiration.

    Well said, Oh mighty Zen Queen:)

  3. Wow, Anny, what a wonderful blog.

  4. As always, you amaze me. I figure you are probably wondering why we fuss about your calm. It's because your sense of peace is not typical. You have grown accustomed to your calm ways but for the rest of us you are the eye of the storm.

  5. Your words are so calming, Anny. Thanks for being in our lives.
    Teri T

  6. Beautiful topic, lovely sentiments. This is a hard lesson, and I've only begun to truly understand that prayer. And what it means to "turn things over."
    I once had a wise woman ask me this: If aliens pumped a certain gas into the air, and it meant you could change nothing superficial about yourself: your weight, your relationships, your job, etc.--would you be happy? I still think a LOT about that one, and the answers.

  7. Wonderful post, Anny. I first heard that prayer when I was a mother used to say it. LOL

    It's very simple, but makes a whole lot of sense. Words to live by.

  8. You know, it is funny that this was your post this morning. I have been thinking about AA all day. I have been woe-is-me over things all week. And I have some big decisions to make this weekend regarding someone I love more than I ever thought possible. So God, please grant me the serenity...


  9. A lot of anxiety comes from indecision. I use this to wade through the options. And then go with the best one. Truly sometimes there are things we cannot change and we just have to let go. Blessings on all of you who shared.

  10. Sometimes the courage to take that leap of faith comes because the only other choice is to continue to die a little more each day. And sometimes the it's the shared wisdom of friends that makes it possible to hold onto that courage.

    I'm very glad you're our Zen Queen.