I believe it is one of the wisest verses ever written in the history of humankind. It has become so hugely popular, however, that I sometimes wonder if its profoundly enlightening meaning has been lost in the commercialism of this wonderful nugget of wisdom. This beautiful prayer is pinned to people’s refrigerators (including my own) and made into posters that are mass-produced and distributed. But what does The Serenity Prayer really mean when we look at it closely?
“God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference.”
It appears obvious enough, but understanding its meaning superficially and really contemplating its significance in our OWN lives is two very different things. If we really analyze each of these lines, we find that The Serenity Prayer is essentially a Guideline for Living. Let’s look at it line by line.
“The serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” Okay, so what can’t I change?
– I can’t change the past
– I can’t change my height, my skin color, my genetic make-up or my overall appearance (meaning facial features, hair type, bone structure, etc)
– I can’t change my age
– I can’t change my familial bloodline
– I can’t change other people
– I can’t change the ways of the world (Although, I CAN make an impact, the world essentially is what it is)
Okay, so these are the things I need to accept in order to have serenity. I certainly haven’t listed every life condition that we must accept, but I think these are the main conditions of life that we must accept as being what they are.
“The courage to change the things I can.” Ah, Courage. That beautiful, difficult word. I think a lot of us don’t fully admit our fears, mainly because we’re not in touch with them. They’re often buried underneath ego and pride, so we remain fearful and stuck and blame one of the things I mentioned above, such as “other people” or our “genetic make-up” for why our lives are so unsatisfying. Before we can be courageous, we must first admit that we are afraid ~ Afraid of change, afraid of failing, even afraid of succeeding! These are normal human fears and once we acknowledge them, we can begin to “change the things we can.”
So, what are some things I can change?
– I can change where I live
– I can change the people I have in my life
– I can change my job, career or school major
– I can change my religion, my political views or my opinion as I see fit
– I can change my diet, my weight and my overall health
– I can change my thoughts. THIS is a big one. I didn’t learn this (nor did it ever occur to me) until I was in my thirties, and when I put it into practice, it was one of the most powerful discoveries that ultimately transformed my life.
Of course, this list could go on and on. The possibilities for creating change in our lives are truly endless.
“The wisdom to know the difference.” This takes objective and enlightened thinking that can come to us with guidance from our Higher Power. Whether you call this power God, the Knowledge of the Universe, Buddha or Creative Intelligence, seek Its guidance. The answers are out there!
And of course, out of turn, but saving the best for last ~ “God, grant me…” For the purposes of simplicity I will refer to my own higher power, GOD. For whatever reason, without God, I was unable to discern what I was truly capable of changing and what I needed to accept in order to have peace. When I was left to my own devices, I remained lost and confused. When I sought His help, it came. I do not need intellectual explanations, nor am I interested in debating the issue. My life, then and now, is all the proof I need that spiritual help is available to us all.
There really is so much more that we are capable of than most of us were taught to believe and The Serenity Prayer is a great place to start in discovering our ability for change, acceptance and peace of mind. xo