Are you familiar with the Serenity Prayer?
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.
The prayer is credited to Reinhold Niebuhr, an American theologian and most commonly used in 12-step recovery groups. Niebuhr used the prayer in a sermon he gave in Heath, Massachusetts in 1943.
The purpose of this prayer is to bring peace and certainty to the heart and mind of people seeking support. It's about accepting what you can't change (which is a lot), the courage required to change what is in your control, and perhaps the most important piece, the wisdom to recognize the difference between the two.
It's a humble lesson, there's nothing romantic about its history, yet it has helped countless people since Niebuhr first uttered the words.
While it is most commonly used by people in recovery from a substance abuse problem, it isn't only for them. It can help you, too. There are timeless truths in the Serenity Prayer that challenge you and can help you anytime.
Acceptance Is Not The Same As Laziness
When you devote an excessive level of your attention to the things in this life you cannot change, what are you achieving? You are spending your energy uselessly when it could be doing something positive for you. Accepting that you cannot change everything doesn't mean you are lazy or complacent. In reality, it's a leap of faith. You trust that the outcome will be the outcome and you can spend your energy elsewhere.
Courage Is Necessary For Personal Growth
The biggest challenge in life is trying to imagine how life could be different. We have so many habits that are paralyzing us in place. Our negative habits are our worst enemy and this is one of the things you do have the power to change. There is power in recognizing that you control personal growth. Courage is necessary for personal growth.
There Is Positivity In Adversity
In the lesser-known full version of the Serenity Prayer, there is a line about hardship. It's described as the pathway to peace. We will all face hardship in life, we will all have to confront obstacles and have to overcome them. Adversity is a natural part of life, and as difficult as it is to understand this – there is positivity in adversity. How can that be? Every moment of adversity you face is an opportunity to learn and grow.
Surrender Requires Courage
There is great courage in surrendering everything. Unfortunately, the word surrender comes with a long list of negative connotations. We view it as failure, weakness or resignation. The reality of the matter (particularly in the Serenity Prayer), is that surrender can be an act of trust, it's faith and this requires courage. You can give away the what-ifs and instead trust.
You Can Attain Happiness
The Serenity Prayer closes with a nod to happiness. If you follow the advice in the prayer, then you can be reasonably happy with life. You can only live one day a time; you can only enjoy a single moment at a time. You don't need to believe in an afterlife or a god to benefit from the message contained within the Serenity Prayer. The message is universal, it's a quiet celebration of perceiving your potential, understanding your limits, and recognizing that you can transcend it.
Adversity isn't always about learning something new, sometimes it's about unlearning bad habits that create a pattern of behavior that is standing in your way of happiness. Instead, you can look at adversity as your path to peace. It's your opportunity to gain strength and find growth and peace.