Serenity Revisited

The Serenity Prayer.  I first came to know this prayer more than 20 years ago compliments of my local Al-Anon group. As many a good members do, I learned the words and recited them dutifully along with the twelve steps needed for my healing. Unfortunately, as it goes with rote prayers and sayings, the meaning had been lost for me years and years ago. 

“Lord, 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.”

Several months ago, I found myself mumbling those words more and more. 

Then one day, clear as a bell, I heard my Lord’s response. Why, my dear? I hear you, but you choose not to live it.

As I often do, I threw my hands upon my hips and thought, Excuse me? 

That which you pray, you should also live. 


For the next several days, I pondered that prayer more closely. I asked for clarity. I begged for understanding. Finally, it came. 

I began to see the ways in which I spent the my time trying to change or control the things I cannot: the people who have free will; the situations happening around me; the job interview with an undetermined outcome; the child who will ultimately make his/her own choices; the loved one who continues to stray from what I feel is the right choice. And during this time of expanding energy where it was not my place, I could have been using my time more wisely, to control all those things in my life that I could do something about but avoided. Why? Because I did not want to take responsibility. A prime example would be the dread I felt about not being published. Fact is, I hadn’t submitted my work so it had yet to land in the hands of someone who might publish it. There were also poor relationships in which I forgot to set boundaries, jobs I never applied to or confrontations I never pursued. Whether out of fear or irrational thinking, I avoided the areas I could affect. 

It was time for a change. Now, I speak slowly and clearly when I recite those words; after all, they carry power. And rather than recite the famous words of Reinhold Niebuhr, I say and live:

Lord, I need peace to know the difference between what I can and cannot control. Show me the things that are not mine, that I might relinquish them to you and trust your care of them. And, please, show me the areas in which I am responsible for and give me the courage to act. 

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