The Serenity Prayer: a Universal Pearl of Wisdom

When I was a schoolboy I never liked Religion classes. For those of you who might find the idea of compulsory religion classes at secondary school a bit strange let me fill you in with some quick context. I was born and raised in a fervently Catholic society. Religion, Catholic religion that is, was and still is a compulsory subject even in state schools. But I attended church school so you might fathom how religious they were about giving religion lessons!

I’m not being condescending don’t get me wrong. It’s just that even as a boy I already didn’t like the idea of being taught what to think and believe instead of being taught how to think and find for myself what to believe. Anyway, that’s past and done I guess…so back to the present.

There is one lesson in those religion classes that I really liked and still like, having stayed with me all these years. It’s what is referred to, if I’m not mistaken, as the serenity prayer which goes something like Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference“.

I think it’s such a powerful affirmation honestly. To me it also sounds as a profoundly sensible thing to pray for and in a way it also goes beyond the sectarian view of religion and culture. It’s just a universal pearl of
wisdom.

The power of accepting

I have written before, as with many others, about the power of acceptance. I think it can never be overwritten for it is such an important aspect of personal development and change.There are things which are very hard to accept in life. Drastic changes, crisis, loss, ill health, broken relationships are a few among others. We seem to be torn between a past in which things were relatively normal to a future which seems not to be turning out the way we wanted it to. We cannot accept that the plot has changed and we are no longer directing the show of our intended destiny for a while. Yet this is why acceptance becomes evermore important and powerful.

Non-acceptance causes turbulence, denial and a lot of painful friction. It immobilizes us because it holds us from moving forward. Our mind latches on to that which was or could have been. This is ultimately a mind projected illusion. The mind doesn’t let us drop the baggage and move to the next stage if we don’t tick that box which says “accept”.

Acceptance is a powerful manifestation of heart. It doesn’t come from intellectually understanding something.  No amount of thinking can bring about acceptance. Acceptance comes when we ground and center ourselves in the present. When this happens we anchor ourselves in that comforting stillness beneath the noisy and constant mental chatter of worrisome thoughts and anxious feelings. If you listen carefully you will listen to the voice of your inner self telling you it’s going to be OK.

The courage to change

Acceptance is not to be confused with passivity or fatalism. This is often the case with some people.  They misconstrue the need to accept what cannot be changed as to stick with whatever comes their way. At an extreme they can end up being fatalists by believing they have absolutely no power to change anything in their lives. This is obviously wrong.

We do have the power and ability to change a lot of things in our present to positively pave way for a brighter future. Life wouldn’t be worth living if this wasn’t the case. But life is very worth living for an infinity of reasons.

Often we need to remind ourselves this. We need to empower and encourage ourselves to change those things that can be changed. They cannot be done by themselves. If we believe this we would be fatalists.

The wisdom to know

It takes will and courage to change things in our present especially if they involve a lot of effort, breaking certain habits and swimming out of our comfort zone. But it takes wisdom to understand clearly which are those things that can and ought to be changed as against those which need to be let go of and accepted.

We sometimes fail to see this clearly but that’s fine. It’s what life is about. If we become more conscious of our present actions and those subconscious patterns that usually pulls us to or from them without knowing really why, we start gaining the wisdom to see through the veil. We would start understanding more and more which things we ought to be focusing our efforts on and which are those which we should more readily accept without causing suffering and frustration.

I am glad that I still remember the serenity prayer from my school days and I am even more happy to have had the opportunity to share it here 🙂 I invite you to read it out to yourself another time. It’s worth it.

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference”


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2 comments

  1. U may not be aware but that is only the beginning verse of the serenity prayer.

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Article by: Gilbert Ross