I Believe in Serenity
I believe the words of the Serenity Prayer are a powerful guide for living. I believe it can be for others too, whether they believe in God or not. For those who don’t believe it is easy to drop the first word, God, and change it from the Serenity Prayer to the Serenity Edict or Dictum or even the Serenity Mandate. If there is a God I don’t think He or She will mind the anonymity. The saying brings to mind old fashioned virtues that are surprisingly helpful in today’s world. I think of life as a big mystery with complicated answers and tend to overlook the simple ideas. The Serenity Prayer is my daily reminder.
The first part is, “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” The key words are accept and serenity. True acceptance leads to serenity, false acceptance does not. I remember when my father was dying of cancer. He’d had several years of treatment and we wanted him to try more chemo. He said, “No, it is what it is.” It is what it is, is such a popular saying, said with a shrug, but there was more to it. Dad was at peace, serene because his cancer forced him to accept that he could not beat it. I was anxious when he accepted his impending death. I thought if we were stalwart against his cancer, united against it, that we could force it into submission/remission. Dad knew we couldn’t, he knew the course was unchangeable.
The second part, “the courage to change the things I can,” sounds easy yet it is difficult. It is easy to mistake courage for forcefulness, to believe that a loud voice and strong beliefs will make me seem courageous. I forget that it takes courage to realize that wanting to change things is not enough. It takes courage to be quiet.
The third and last part, “the wisdom to know the difference,” is the most difficult of all. I value intelligence and knowledge but forget that wisdom is more encompassing, that wisdom recognizes what isn’t as much as what is. I am seduced by my own foolishness into believing that knowing more makes me wiser. Knowing more does not make me wise, it just fills my head.
I was angry when my father refused more treatment. I thought if he was more courageous he would continue to fight. But he knew he could not change the outcome of his disease. What he did was show his family the courage it took to face death with acceptance.
I keep the Serenity Prayer posted in my office. I hope that by seeing the words often enough I will remember them, that the prayer will embed itself in me until I don’t have to recite it. I will know it inside myself, just as my father did.
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