Have you heard of the Serenity Prayer? It comes from the Alcoholics Anonymous fellowship and is used throughout the world by AA members and those within other allied “Anonymous” groups. Even if you’ve never encountered any of these groups, the Serenity Prayer has something in it for everyone, I think, whether you’re religious, spiritual, addicted, in recovery, atheist, agnostic or none of the above.
It goes like this:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.
You certainly don’t have to believe in any higher power to see that this forms an excellent starting point for enjoying life. That’s not to say it’s easy to practise, though. Accepting the things we cannot change is hard. How often do we struggle to control people or events which are beyond our reach; fuming when the train is late or when someone lets us down? Can we make the train run faster or force that someone to do as we want them to? Nope. What can we do, then, without raising our blood pressure through anger and/or anxiety? We can try to accept that these unwanted things have happened and no amount of fretting or exploding will get us the results we desire. I did say it was hard.
Now to the real business: changing the things we can. If you’ve read other articles of mine you’ll probably guess what’s coming... The only thing we can change is ourselves and the way we behave and respond.
Could we have left ourselves more time to allow for possible train delays? Does it really matter if we’re late anyway? Are we spending lots of time and energy trying to get others to do what we think we want them to at the expense of examining and maybe altering our own way of doing things? Understanding that the responsibility for other people lies only with them is key to finding serenity for ourselves and this is reflected in the final line of the Serenity Prayer – we need to know which bits we can and cannot control; to work on acquiring the wisdom to know the difference. That way, our serenity is within our own control and not contingent on the acts or omissions of others.