There is a beautiful, short prayer, called the ‘Serenity Prayer’, which many of you may be familiar with. It goes like this:
Lord, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
I am not a religious person, but this prayer has always struck me for its eloquence. It is such a profound thought contained within four short lines. And recently, I started to meditate on it and realised just how big a difference it could make in our lives if we lived by this short prayer. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer to rely on God to give you strength, or whether, like me, you prefer to seek it in yourself.
Courage to change the things I can
There are things in life we can – and should – control, like our own actions. We are programmed, according to psychology, to have three brain ‘sections’: the Id, which is your animal urges, impulses and instincts; the ‘Superego’, which is the result of social conditioning; and the ‘Ego’ which, hopefully, strikes a balance between the two. We all know we should think before we act (although we do not want to push this to a sort of self-conscious paranoia).
There are also situations we can control: you can leave an abusive relationship; you can contact an old friend you have not spoken to in years; you can decide to go back to school to further your education.
But there is a common factor here, and that is you.
The serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Realising that there are things which you cannot control is terrifying at first. A lot of us feel the need to be in control of all the situations we find ourselves in because it makes us feel safe and secure, so knowing some things are out of our control is scary. We begin to panic until we realise that, really, this is quite liberating.
This means we no longer have to worry ourselves silly about whether our partners will cheat on us, or whether our flights will get cancelled, or whether our relatives abroad will get the Christmas presents we mailed them on time. Why? Because worrying won’t make any of these things happen, or not happen, any more than dancing the samba with fish in your pockets and feathers in your hair will.
Once we can liberate ourselves from negative energy in the form of worry and paranoia, we can begin to focus on taking care of the things we really can take care of.
And if your partner does cheat on you? What then? Well, then that’s something that was in their control; that was their choice. What you can control now is your reaction to that. Will you forgive? Will you leave? Will you get revenge?
Life is a series of events – some are shit; some are wonderful – and we have to come to terms with how important it is to live each event as it happens, rather than numb ourselves by worrying and mulling over what’s going to happen next.
I would like the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
I would like the courage to change the things I can
I would like the wisdom to know the difference.