“God, grant me to have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I first heard this prayer in my early years as a therapist while working at a recovery center. It is a popular saying in Alcoholics Anonymous, but I find myself thinking of it often and it certainly pertains to those outside the AA circle as well.
I’d like to focus on that powerful first line: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. I love the reminder that (of course!) there are things in life we cannot change. This is a hard one for some people. In our fast-paced, do everything society, it can be difficult to know that there are actually things in our lives outside of our own control. And as AA reminds us we cannot control people, places or things. That covers a lot! Actually, the only thing we truly can control is ourselves. Our own actions, choices, and most profoundly, our reactions to all those things we can’t control. Oh, you might be thinking, “but of course I can control things in my life! I can control my career path or (insert whatever you believe to have control over in your life)!” Well, to some extent I suppose you can. You can control the choices you make that influence the direction of your career (or whatever that something is), but can you control the outcome? Not entirely. And that is where the serenity comes in.
Serenity is defined as the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled. Sound hard to do? Indeed. Trying to find that peaceful state of mind when you don’t get the promotion you worked so hard for, or your kid gets sick, or your husband tells you he wants a divorce, is to say the least hard. People in AA are encouraged to repeat the prayer as a way of gaining serenity. Maybe prayer doesn’t work for you, but a mantra might. Serenity, serenity, serenity. Or some deep breaths. Maybe you can find serenity in nature, or a yoga class, or a bubble bath. But find it you should, because you will surely need it at some point. Or if you’re like me, every day.