God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Strength to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
The Serenity Prayer was written by an American theologist, Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr and then made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous, and other self-help groups many years ago. The poignancy of its simple message makes it a mantra for many of those in recovery and helps when things feel tough and out of control. It’s the strength to draw upon when strength is needed. It’s the understanding they receive when they don’t know why things are so difficult. It’s a great perspective to use when change is needed but so difficult to achieve.
The discovery of this simple prayer has changed my life.
Serenity is defined as the state of being calm or serene. It’s the state of being that I ascribe to as often as possible. For me, happiness lives in that state of being. It is in the moment that you feel that way. If you are calm or just plain happy, it can only be NOW that you feel that way. The future hasn’t come yet and the past is behind us. So, if I can feel serenity and I am living in the moment, then for me that is the clearest perspective I can have.
So why do I find these simple words so powerful?
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” I say this to myself, repeatedly, when I am full of anxiety, and suffering emotionally over something that is beyond my control. Too often I get an automatic negative emotional response to something happening to me. I never decided to let it bother me. It just comes over me like a wave, and for that moment encompasses me. I find this line, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, is a prayer unto itself. We all need to accept the things we cannot change. These are the things that by their nature have nothing to do with us. They come from outside ourselves. I don’t use God as the focus, but solely myself. I ask myself to accept the things I cannot change. However, if praying to God works then that’s great. I get relief from most negative emotional states by just saying these words.
The rest of the Serenity Prayer leads me on a path to make the changes in my life which I desire. Unless you are living a perfect life, a person needs change to make improvements. It takes courage to make changes. Courage to change the things I can, reminds me to look within myself for the courage, and gives me the understanding that it might not be easy but it is doable. It is easy to leave things as they are. Working towards change gives me the hope that one day I will get to where I want to be.
I know that if I can develop the wisdom to know the difference between what I can and cannot change then I will be happy.