This column is a reprint from November 2007. Many of my friends are suffering discouragement, loss, and even tragedy. I was looking through some of my old posts for a specific quote (never found it!) but found this post instead. It spoke to me. Perhaps it will speak to those who need it. Blessings on your day.
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... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.