Serenity, courage and wisdom

Published 7:00 am Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Serenity Prayer reads like this:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

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And wisdom to know the difference.”

— Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr

Such a simple, little prayer, the Serenity Prayer can be quoted by most of the modern world. A favorite of AA and other rehabilitation programs, the prayer gives us instructions on how to come to terms with life’s problems.

Serenity is defined as the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled. The prayer states “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” For us humans, that is a hard one. Our first instinct is to fix the problem, even if it is one that cannot be fixed by human hands. We want to be an active part of the solution, and have the ability to make everything better. When we are unable to fix things, we are very seldom peaceful and untroubled by the outcome. We have already been shown we just can’t fix everything, so make peace with this fact. When you make peace with yourself then you can be calm and untroubled.

“The courage to change the things I can”, goodness, that’s a hard one too. Courage is defined as the ability to do something that frightens one, or to have strength in the face of pain or grief. Humans are not readily open to change. Change is scary. We are comfortable in the status quo, even though our situation may be less than perfect. The prayer encourages us to change the things we can. We tend to fight change every time it presents itself, instead of embracing change as a way to something better, something greater. So dig down deep and find the courage to change what you can, you may be surprised at the outcome.

Last but not least is “the wisdom to know the difference.” Wisdom is defined as “the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment.” As humans often times when we are faced with a crisis, we will find that what little wisdom we have has abandoned us. The longer one lives, the more experience and knowledge we may acquire, however, that does not mean we will exercise good judgment. And that is why we pray the prayer in the first place.

Humans cannot do these things alone, but by God who grants us the abilities: serenity, courage, and wisdom.

Big meaning for such a simple, little prayer, wouldn’t you agree?