Saturday, August 20, 2011

Serenity - Courage - Wisdom ... part one

I say this prayer at least once a week, sometimes several times a day.  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.  

There's more to this prayer which is attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr - it goes on to say, "... living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it - so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next."

Wow.  Just .... wow.

The part I do repeat frequently is enough in itself to give me pause.  Even just the Serenity part - that of accepting what I cannot change, because it took me decades in my life to get to the place where I was willing to accept that there even WERE things I couldn't change.  So now, I am learning to accept: 

Source of this graphic is :

I cannot change people.  I cannot make them do what I want them to do.  If I try, they will do the exact opposite in the vast majority of cases - or they will do as I ask and then resent me.  Truth be told, as much as this society says that it's possible, I can't even change myself.  The only person who can is God.  When I try to change myself or change other people, I am playing God.  I am learning (slowly) to let God be who He is and to let Him do His work without trying to put my oar in.  To let go of people and let them be who they are, to let them bear the consequences of their own decisions and NOT to say "I told you so."  Ever.  To cut myself a break when I screw up and to thank Him for putting up with me.  To realize, when I hear of someone caught in a moral, marital, or financial failure, that "there, but for the Grace of God, go I."  To be there for people instead of judging them or their motives.

This has been a very big deal for me in my recovery from being a dedicated and obsessional control freak.  Accepting for me means taking my hands off - completely off - and watching what happens. The results have been nothing less than amazing as they unfold.


I'm learning to say to myself that there are some places I can go and some places that are not good for me.  I am learning to accept this fact, and choose to go to the places that heal, build up, and encourage and to stay away from places (and truth be told, people) that send me messages that I am not wanted or worthy.  

Even in the mundane, I am learning to let go of what I want and accept what is - for example, recently I had to let go of what I wanted as a colour for my living room and accept the colour that it would now be - I couldn't very well go back.  Accepting it gave me the power to choose my level of happiness with the new reality instead of railing against it.  Now, with everything back in place and a new border put in to accent the room and pull the old and new colours together, I can honestly say I like it just fine, and there are things about it that I like better.  Go figure.  


I'm also learning that I can't stop things from happening or make them happen a different way!  Circumstances occur, and I am learning to accept them as they are and not wish them away or prevent myself from enjoying the good things out of a sense of misplaced guilt. This applies to news stories as well as to my personal life.  Do I wish my dad was here? (He died of inoperable brain cancer in 1993.)  Yes, of course I do, especially when I am feeling sick or insecure.  I miss him and his "everything is going to be all right" attitude.  But I wouldn't wish him back - he's having far too much fun where he is and is happy, supremely happy, for the first time ever.  

As much as I would like it otherwise, there are horrible things that happen in the world every day.  Rather than get upset about them and allow them to have power over whether I am happy or not, I'm learning to let go of them and accept what is for what it is.  Tragedies happen.  People hurt people.  I can feel compassion for those who are hurt by these things because their lives are touched personally by them.  But I am not being disloyal or a bad person if I happen to not let their unhappiness make me unhappy.  I am learning the boundary between where others stop and I begin - or where I stop and others begin. This is huge for me.  

It takes God-given serenity to let go of these things, to accept people, places and things as they are without obsessing about changing them.  And I haven't fooled myself into thinking that my acceptance of them is perfect or that I've arrived.  But because of what God has done in me and for me (that which I could not do for myself) it's a lot better than it was.  

Talk about gratitude!

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