“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.” ~Reinhold Niebuhr
“You’re really not acting like you normally do. You need to chill out.” Was my friend really saying this to me? Yes, she was, and it was very painful for me to hear. Life had been busy, and people everywhere were so incredibly needy and whiny and left me wanting to scream. I was in need of a Calgon bath to take me away, but it would be hours before a warm and quiet bath would be an option. The words I need to remember and often forget washed over me like a sudden burst of sunshine on a gray day. “Accept the things I cannot change, change the things I can…” Niebuhr’s words will always serve as a reminder of the importance of taking time to recognize the choices I have in life.
I can’t remember the first time I heard the words of The Serenity Prayer, but it seems many people have come to understand the value the three lines of a much longer prayer can hold in times of struggle, just as I have. With the busyness of life, it seems the perfect time to share it with those who might never have heard it and to remind those who know it and forget how to use it to bring a calm to life, you know — serenity.
After I got over my initially bruised ego, I took my friend’s remarks to heart and knew that it was true — I had been trying to control everything in my world, in every corner, and it was having a very negative effect on me. Have you found yourself in that circumstance? Have you suddenly realized that the person you think is inside your body is not the same person people around you are seeing? Consider this your wake-up call to use the three lines of The Serenity Prayer to help that person inside be the same person being seen outside. Ready?
- What are the things you can’t change? The weather, the car’s decision to act up when no one else is around but behave perfectly in front of the mechanic, and the dog taking too long on his morning walk when you are in a hurry.
- What are the things you can change? Taking an umbrella when it looks like it might rain. Taking your car in for maintenance appointments instead of waiting until it’s about to break down. Walking the dog earlier, so he has more time and you won’t feel rushed.
- What is this wisdom of knowing the difference? For each of us, it might be a little different. For me, it’s finding that little bit of peace that comes with recognizing that sometimes none of my efforts will change things. It isn’t a personal attack on me from life.
The Serenity Prayer isn’t necessarily just for religious people. Its words are adaptable for each of us, wherever we are. As I run across people who think that their emergency should be my emergency, I try to stop and ask myself if this is something I can control or change. Sometimes it is, but often, it is not, and I step away to get a better view of things.
The next time life throws you a curve ball, take a minute to ask yourself, “Is this something I can control?” If yes, what can you do? If no, then take a deep breath and control your behavior in response to the situation. We have a choice in our response, and it will take some practice to learn to look at situations with new eyes, but once you start you’ll probably discover that when you have the wisdom to know the difference, you just might find a little peace.