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.
When I first started being a source of advice for friends and family, I would sit and think about things for a few days and then come up with some strategy that we could possibly take over the world. It took me a long time to realize that the core of most of the advice that I always gave came from the Serenity Prayer. Now, many times when people come to me for advice, I spend most of the time listening to what they have to say and trying to tap into their understanding of each part of what they have to say. I ask questions like, “Well, what do you think that means?” or “What do you think you’re going to do, if I don’t tell you anything right now?” It lets me know everything from every angle of the situation before I offer advice. But most times when I speak, it starts with these three lines and it is organized in that way.
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,”
This is a carefully phrased statement, because it does not say, “Don’t worry about the things I cannot change,” it’s asking you accept it, and reach an inner peace about it. The first step of reaching any goal or finding any understanding is to know that there will be things in your life that you can’t change. You can’t worry about what’s preventing you from changing it, it’s more important to understand that you simply cannot change it. Once you take a situation and identify all the pieces that no matter how much you try, you will not be able to change, you’re ready to attack the real meat of the matter.
“Courage to change the things I can,”
There are two types of people in this world. There are those who spend most of their time diagnosing the problem — also known as, complaining. And there are those who spend most of their time resolving the problem. My best professional and personal advice I can give anyone is, “don’t come to me with a problem, if you haven’t thought of a solution.” There’s no country for people who can identify what the problem is, if they won’t do anything about it. Many times once people identify a problem they sit back and say, “I can’t do anything about that.” It’s a cowardly response some times. There will be times when you have situations that you can change, such as: finding a new job, making a move to a new city, ending an unhealthy relationship, or changing a mind.
You can change your job situation, but it doesn’t start with, “I need a new job” it starts with “I’m going to start looking for a new job.” You can make a move to a new city, but it doesn’t start with, “I don’t know anybody there” it starts with “I’ll have to work hard to make new friends and contacts.” And trust me, there’s always someone anywhere you go who you or someone you know knows. Ending unhealthy relationships can be difficult, but sometimes we feel we’re tied to people because we’ve been friends for so long, or we’ve been together for so long, but trust me you can do it. You can change minds too. Inception seems like a difficult thing to do, but it’s not. You can’t go into a person’s mind and make them do anything, but you can inspire and motivate others to do great things. The point here is, when you identify a problem that is changeable, change it.
“And the wisdom to know the difference.”
This is the most difficult part of the prayer because it’s the part that we can get hung up on the most. At times, we think that we are powerful beyond measure and other times we find safety in, “well there isn’t anything I can do about that.” As we grow in life we’ve got to work towards the wisdom needed to understand the difference between the things we can’t change and the things we can. I always like to think about it this way: you can’t change the past, you can only change the present, and you never know what’s going to happen in the future, but you can affect it. As people go through life’s daily bumps and bruises, give them time to hurt, no one is allowed to tell someone that they cannot hurt. But encourage them to heal, because you can’t hurt forever. Sooner or later you have to stop thinking about the past, because there’s nothing you can change about it. Then you have to start doing something about what’s going on right now, because you are missing out on countless opportunities to change the present.
This prayer has gotten me by at times when I didn’t know what to do. You know your life has reached a rough patch when you are pushed up against a wall with, ‘I just don’t know what I’m going to do.” It’s times like those when we need this prayer. When we have to make changes, or do things that we never thought we could do, it’s the best way to approach life.
What are your thoughts on the Serenity Prayer? Has it helped you through a situation in your life? If you are reading it for the first time today, have you found that the structure for this prayer is present in the way you approach problem solving? Let me know.
– Dr. J
We are pleased to announce the SBM “Week in Review” Youtube Series featuring WisdomIsMisery. Click here to get the scoop and intro video. 2012 is looking better everyday.
Great post. It's not a prayer that I utter in its exact form, but its essence informs my conversations with God and people I'm advising. Because I'm usually a rational/analytical thinker, I tend to be realistic about what can and can't be changed, and therefore focus on the former. A couple of years ago, though, I had a harder time with letting go of things that could not be undone. Situations changed for the better when I adjusted my mindset, attitude, etc., but the first step was always accepting that the hands of time could not be turned back.
First of all, let me compliment you on being so inspirational! Not that I have specific expectations, but I wasn't expecting the topic of prayer. It's refreshing to be surprised. You have nice layers my brotha. I needed that today. I don't think I have ever used the "serenity prayer". But, I pray about most situations (after I freak out, yell, scream and/or and cry, Lol). I usually ask for peace, guidance and wisdom about what ever I'm dealing with which seems to be in line with what the "serenity prayer" asks for.
Great Post. I always turn to the serenity prayer when facing a difficult decision. I also try to incorporate it in my daily prayers so that it becomes a way if thinking by default. I really like your suggestion to base the advice you give ppl on this prayer. I wl be sure to do the same going forward.
Very nice post. Kinda unexpected to be honest. But since we're being all inspirational and all, I also like this (related) quote/prayer:
"God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it's me."
oh! i really like that.
I have to agree with previous comments. I read this blog because of its high entertainment value, but this was actually a post with depth. I like!
The serenity prayer is definitely in line with my way of approaching problem solving and just as you write, the challenge is the last phrase – in knowing the difference between what you can and cannot change. In later years I have come to the realization that often times you can change a lot more than you give yourself credit for so having these phrases in the back of my head is very helpful.
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So simple, but so challenging.
I don't utter this one often, but I do have something I say to myself often that's basically the same.
Courage is definitely something I'm rebuilding. My 18 year old self was fearless, and she assessed and acted quickly. The goal is not be her again, but to embrace the older version of her I'd like to be. And problem solving requires critical thinking, and I feel like I've been in a brain fog and am only now barely emerging from it. I look forward to embracing that again, too.
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It's easy to read and understand yet hard to swallow at times. But, its worth jumping the mental hurdles to exercise the peace found in it.
Another important thing not mentioned in the prayer is letting go. I've learned from experience that once you've accepted certain things, you have to let go…refusing to allow what you've accepted to run your future or change your perception of everything and everyone.
This was a great look today. Seriously. The wisdom to know the difference is the hardest part. I find myself trying to change outcomes of situations that I know are set, and I should work on different solutions. That is my "I will not lose" mentality. That wisdom is key to success.
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I inadvertently implemented a variation of this principle when I was much younger in order to find peace between what I do and do not control. For better or worse, I'm actually fairly apathetic by nature so it's hard for me to get too emotionally vested in much of anything. In some cases it's a strength, in other cases it's an extreme fault. I also generally believe everything happens for a reason even if I don’t understand the application at the time of occurrence. I have found a lot of my past failures prepared me for successes in the present/future. I believe everyone needs a guiding principle such as the one quoted above. Another one I like is one my father shared with me: You can’t fight the wind but you can adjust your sails. Another I heard from Mike Tyson. Yes, that Mike Tyson: I’ve worked hard for everything I have, but I do not have everything I worked for.
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I live by this. I realize I can't do it all, or map out my destiny 100%, but I will do whatever is within my own paper to change the direction when needed. I have a small plaque on my book case for when I need reminding.
I find it quite difficult when trying to give advice to friends and they simply cannot grant that they are in control of SO much that goes on in their life. I find it really hard to identify with failure, giving up or helplessness. Therefore, when friends with those types of traits come along I am simply stuck. I have said all I can say, either they will do or they wont. I've found a great sense of mental peace and balance when I learned to let go of certain things, not to care about others and to set small goals for change within myself. A lot of people don't respect that state of peace if they have not found it themselves.
I don't really put faith in the "everything happens for a reason mantra, but I do believe in analyzing, learning and moving on.
A lot of people simply don’t want to be responsible for their lives. They’re not going to do it till they decide to do it. Some people will complain and never act or change and will go to their grave like that. It’s too much for them to be in charge of their lives. No amount of advice is gonna help someone like that.
I became happy when I installed a version of this prayer in my life. I decided to only focus on things I can control, and let everything else flow. Sometimes people frustrate me and i always want to understand, but only my actions beling to me. Its incredibly liberating. Another little trick I have done to prevent fear and worrying is to imagine the worst case scenario. Figure out how likely it is. Then come up with a plan for that scenario and mentally walk myself through it. It makes the unthinkable thinkable and let’s me know I can survive it.
Great post. There's going to be more of this on the site in 2012. Looking forward to it.
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I've never heard anybody talk about this prayer other than my grandmother. She had it up on her wall and I remember asking her about it as a kid. She explained it to me and it made so much sense. That said, I should use it more often. I claim that I'm over things but there is always a trigger word that brings my past to me. I need to ask for serenity for that because I want to accept it and I want to just let it go. I can't change the decisions I've made or anything else and being bitter about it sure won't help. As far as courage goes, I know I need it but I don't know what it is that I can change or what direction my life really needs to go which leads right into that wisdom part. Great post.
I use this prayer constantly. It's applicable most with my music career at the moment. My biggest issues is accepting things that I can't change, because I've done things that are statistically EXTREMELY improbably many times in the past. I make ish happen, and I do it all the time. So when things can't happen, it's problematic.
In the past, this was most applicable to my dating life. I suppose it's still applicable, but I don't worry either way. Everything will be fine.
I absolutely love this post.
I very rarely comment on this site but this one brought me out. I love your breakdown of the serenity prayer! Love this post!
I guess people aren't down with prayers anymore??
Anyway, I loved this post!
I think it’s hard to balance the idea that you could have done more/better with the concept that the moment has passed. One of the things I’ve taken from this prayer is the importance of living for today and letting tomorrow worry about itself. It’s hard to believe that God allows circumstances to happen while completely missing the notion that your response to the occurance is more valuable than what actually occurred (if that makes sense). I also take from it how important it is to live your best life now, your best life today, because tomorrow is never promised.
"As people go through life’s daily bumps and bruises, give them time to hurt, no one is allowed to tell someone that they cannot hurt. But encourage them to heal, because you can’t hurt forever. Sooner or later you have to stop thinking about the past, because there’s nothing you can change about it. "
I definitely needed to read this today.
I'm so late on this but had to comment anyway because this has already been beyond relevant in 2012. Great post and breakdown. It's in my nature to always try to question everything and think that I can just fix it. But since 2008 I've learned that sometimes you really just need to stop and understand that you have to make peace with certain people/things. Saying this prayer out loud, to myself, while standing still has prevented a lot of unnecessary stress. Great daily mantra.
On this 19th day of 2012, change has not been a stranger in my life and I have a feeling it's not going anywhere no time soon. It was refreshing to read this as I remember how to deal with it all. Thank you,
Great Post!! I have the Serenity Prayer up on my desk at work. When I grew up and realized the importance of accepting accountability and owning up for my own actions it was a BREAKTHROUGH for me!!
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Guys I may be too late to post this but, I had a discussion with my so close friend. She thinks the first part of the serenity prayer is discouraging. I failed to convince her that they are things that we cannot change. To her everything is possible and that this prayer should have been like " O God, grant me the serenity to accept the situations that appear to be unchangeable. Guys whats your say?
This is great understanding about the serenity prayer