We have all read the Serenity Prayer at some point in our lives. ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can change. And the wisdom to know the difference.’ If you are like me it seems I have read this a million times and yet actually applying its deeper meaning seems to work better when issues are less critical or important in life. When the ‘big dogs’ of problems surface oftentimes, the real meaning of this prayer is lost and we find ourselves simply reacting as we have done in the past and feeling more and more frustrated with the results. We typically take the path we have chosen so often in our lives because it has become a conditioned response.
As with so many significant sayings in life we can mouth the words, even memorize them and yet never completely internalize them which will cause a change in our attitude, beliefs and behavior. I have chosen to use the Serenity Prayer over the next few blogs to delve more deeply into what it can do for us. The few words contained in the prayer have tremendous potential to help us arrive at a greater sense of confidence, peace and wisdom in our lives. It is worth taking the time to think about in greater depth over the next week. It can help us harness the power of these words and then apply them when we face the next truly big challenge in our lives.
The Serenity Prayer basically boils down to two issues: learning how to accept with grace and humility the things in life that cannot be changed or learning how to dig deep to surface the needed courage to change the things that are possible for us to change. Seems straight forward enough doesn’t it? Ah, but as with everything else in life simplicity is an art that only results after wrestling with the true complexity of the elements behind it. Determining which path to take is, of course, the ultimate challenge but it is not a mere choice arrived at easily but rather the result of understanding and examining the complex web of emotions and beliefs established from our early conditioning, cultural mores and personal life experiences.
To begin our more in depth look at the deeper meaning of the prayer I would ask you to consider the following questions.
Which approach is usually HARDER for you … accepting the things you truly cannot change (without anger or resentment) or finding the courage to actually change the things (with grace and tenacity) that you can change?
Your answer to the above question is important. As individuals we have a preference for one approach over the other. It doesn’t mean that we can’t use the other approach but it is not something we typically do or prefer to do especially when dealing with the ‘biggies’ in life.
Your answer is very important as we continue to dive deeper into the well of understanding about human emotions in our goal to develop greater wisdom and Serenity. In essence, in one response we are dealing with learning to trust more fully and with the other response learning how to better control our fears. Both are difficult but achievable behavioral changes. One answer is not better than the other it is simply different and will help us decide on the next pathway to follow. In the meantime after you decide which approach is harder for you the logical step is to ask yourself the question – why? Really think about why that particular approach is harder for you – just a hint – it is usually the result of early conditioning.
Stay tuned and we will follow up on the possible ‘why’ in the next blog.
Have a great few days!