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The Serenity Prayer

May 21, 2010

My mother has a thing for sharing inspirational quotes with me. Most of them go in one ear and out the other, because they’re usually quite cheesy, but this one really appealed to me. It’s the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr. It starts like this:

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.

Words to live by, huh?

I think my problem is that I’m just a bit too serene. I settle. I find myself saying “well that’s just the way it is, who am I to change it?” or stuff like that. So evidently I’m not as courageous as I should be and I’m not as wise as I should be, either.

I think anyone who has these three gifts must be truly happy. But how does one acquire these gifts?

Accepting things you cannot change

SometimesMost of the time, things won’t go the way you want them to. While tenacity is a skill found in the very best of us, it’s good to know when to let go. Stop brushing yourself off and don’t try again, because it’s futile. There are some things that are set in stone; they simply cannot be changed. I think the whole idea of serenity is not just accepting “things”, but accepting people and situations for who or what they are. It could be that you’re unable to do a certain sport or subject in school. Be serene, don’t beat yourself up about it. Nobody’s good at everything. I’m slightly vain when it comes to academics. I sincerely believe that there’s no subject that I can’t do if I don’t try hard enough; if I’m failing it’s either because I want to fail or I’m simply apathetic. To compensate for this conceit, I’ve humbly accepted that I will never be good at a sport and I’ll never learn to dance and I’m really not all that pretty. The list of things I suck at is about seven times as long as the things I’m good at. Being somewhat of a perfectionist, these things should bother me. But I guess I have the serenity part down. Accept the things you cannot change.

Changing the things you can

It’s really horrible when someone sees something bad happening and doesn’t do anything about it, even though it’s in their power. I could be referring to people in authority – politicians, teachers, older siblings. Or I could just be referring to a normal person who sees a piece of trash but doesn’t pick it up because they’re too lazy. We all have the power to change things. I’m not talking about big things like global warming and racism and Jamaica’s crime problem (although it can be argued that those things are indirectly in our power). I’m talking about little things like making someone smile or talking a friend out of a bad decision or volunteering at a hospital. We’re all able to make little changes in our lives that will ultimately have the ripple effect of changing our world. This sounds really cliché, I know, but it’s true. If you see something happening and you’re able to change it for the good, why not do so? Change the things you can.

Knowing the difference

This is the hard part – knowing the difference. I think this comes with really knowing yourself and your capabilities; I also think it takes practice to perfect. “Knowing the difference” means different things to different people. While I’ve accepted that if I try to dance, I will: a) embarrass myself; b) injure myself; c) injure others around me or d) all of the above, I refuse to accept a failing grade for any subject. But that’s just me.

Eventually, I want to possess all these gifts – serenity, courage and wisdom.

Like everything else in my life, that’s a work in progress.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 21, 2010 5:21 pm

    =]. Lots of intra-personal reflection came to me after reading. I enjoyed this post, Fran.

  2. Anarkist permalink
    May 21, 2010 5:49 pm

    Lol =] I got the serenity…but the courage…NON-TALL…sorry i hate disappointment…why put yourself in the position to be let down. Its oki i will stay in my little shell.=]

  3. July 28, 2010 7:25 am

    words 2 live by indeed, i have never heard of the serenity prayer before, but if i use it in everyday decisions, it will be beneficial 2 me.
    thank you 4 writin this post

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