A cornerstone of the 12 Step program, the Serenity Prayer is simple and straight-forward; but like a lot of things that are simple to understand, it is often very difficult to apply.
You cannot change anything but yourself. You are not responsible for or capable of changing someone else’s thought, moods, behaviors, perceptions, desires, motivations, beliefs or ideas. Yet, think about how much time we waste and how much frustration we create because we cannot accept someone else as they are. They don’t do what they think they should do so it becomes a problem. If someone is grumpy in the morning, why get upset at their surliness? Why waste time trying to get them to change, especially if you know they’ll come around in about an hour and after they’ve had their coffee.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Most things about yourself you can change, but some things need to be accepted. You won’t be getting taller. You can’t change your race or ethnicity. You cannot change the family you were born into or the circumstances you grew up in. In fact, you can’t change the events of the past. It’s done. You can change how you perceive those events but that would take …
Yet, there are things you can change. Those begin with things within your control, things within yourself. You don’t have to do what you’ve always done. You can do something different. However, something different could very well mean something that opens you up to criticism or failure and that takes courage. Something different might mean stepping outside of your comfort zone and feeling awkward or making mistakes. This takes a significant level of personal bravery.
The courage to change the things I can
You cannot change others but you can speak up for yourself and you can offer solutions to situations that are within your control. However, your suggestions and your outspokenness might be met with hostility or even ridicule. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say anything. It does mean that you’ll have to summon the courage to do so.
This is the hard part. This is the part that makes something simple in explanation, difficult in practice. What is within your control to change and what isn’t? When do you need to accept or let go and when do you need to be brave and show the determination necessary to change?
The wisdom to know the difference
I think some of this comes with age. Because we’ve grown in different areas and in different ways, I have lost some friendships over the years. When I was younger, I tried in vain to hold on to those friendships, eventually, I had to let them go.
A lot of this wisdom comes from being open to learning from your mistakes and the events in your life. I don’t believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger or wiser or better than you were before. For some, what doesn’t kill you just doesn’t kill you. However, for someone who is willing to learn and grow from there experiences, struggle can bring those qualities of strength, wisdom and betterment.