Friday, November 20, 2009

The Serenity Prayer

I have never been involved in a 12 step program, but I find that more than 20 years after I first read the Serenity Prayer I have come to understand it in a way I never thought I would. I think it was written backwards.
First, a few definitions.
  • Serenity-the state or quality of being serene, calm, undisturbed, at peace.
  • Courage-motivation to action despite having a fear of doing so.
  • Wisdom-understanding that comes from applying reason to knowledge.
With the changes going on in my life there has come much stress, fear, and some feeling of loss of control. For a few weeks, I was feeling somewhat helpless. I kept having to remind myself that there were only certain things about my situation that I could control, and the rest I just had to let go and trust that God is in control of those. During this time my friend (who is aware of what is going on) asked me how I was doing. I responded "What will be will be, and I can't change that." She remarked how calm I seemed given the circumstances. I realized that I had been granted the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. But this wasn't what I was given first. It came last.

I think the first thing I was granted was wisdom. Wisdom that there are things in our lives we can change, control, or even influence. Wisdom that, despite what we want, there are a few things we have no control over. Thanks to the gift of agency we can act and make choices for ourselves forever and about almost everything in our lives. The only things we cannot choose are God's choices for us and others' use of agency. That seems like a lot of things in our lives we can control.

I think the second thing I was granted was courage. Courage to change the things I can. In other words: the courage to be responsible. To accept responsibility for the great many things in my life I do control. I control (among other things) my attitude, what I eat, how much I exercise, my spirituality, my reaction to others' choices, etc. Courage, to me, is using agency effectively despite our fear of the outcome. I think a lack of courage leads to inaction rather than to bad choices. I wrote this post about how I used to let fear (a lack of courage) dominate my life. I am thankful I have been granted courage to change the things I can.

It was while I was busy trying to affect (read control) every possible thing in my life that I was eventually granted serenity. I got upset and stressed out worrying about how something was going to turn out. Not knowing the end from the beginning and not being able to control many things about it gave me great stress, frustration, and worry. It's like making some great recipe, but you don't have all the directions. You do your part, you mix what you can mix , add what ingredients you have, follow the part of the recipe you have, all the while knowing that you don't have everything and can't control everything. When it is time to serve it, you have to trust the other cook to have done their part: added their ingredients, cooked appropriately, etc. and left you something wonderful. Serenity is about learning to trust. Trust that God controls what you can't. That God will do His part if you use your courage and do yours. I was granted serenity last because I had to understand and then act and then trust.

Serenity is not about having my life be stress-free, or without hardship. Serenity is about understanding that there are certain things I am not responsible for, and then not trying to be responsible for them anyway.
Courage is about agency. Making choices to act and being responsible for those actions. Understanding that choosing inaction is making a choice and I am responsible for that choice.
Wisdom is about applying my ability to reason to the knowledge that I have and gaining understanding about agency, responsibility and trust.

Grant me the Wisdom to understand what I can change, and what I can't;
The Courage to be responsible for what I can;
and the Serenity to trust You will be responsible for everything else.


danandcami said...

Well said!! Although after reading your post, I worry about you, I have no idea what is going on but I hope you and your family are well. I admire your courage and the knowledge you are gaining. Hug those boys for me!

Birrd said...

This is good. Thank you for writing this. I think it will help a lot of people.

Jenny said...

Nicely written.