Self Help Sanctum

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Wisdom of The Serenity Prayer

In just three lines, Reinhold Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer (as adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous) encapsulates a profound philosophy of life.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

We are each endowed with free will, but are bounded by external circumstance, personal limitation and the choices of others. We each have finite energy/resources but are exposed to numerous (infinite?) competing options/demands as to how these are employed.

This prayer teaches us to discern the difference between things we can influence and those we can’t. This judgment is paramount in leading a fulfilling and purposeful life.

A huge amount of human energy is expended worrying, stressing and being angry at things that are beyond our control. How much better would our world be if the immutable (from our perspective) were simply acknowledged, and then let go? All that previously wasted energy could now by directed to that which we can influence.

Once we limit our attention to things we can change we then need to decide those in which we can accomplish the greatest good, which offer the greatest chance of success, and which are likely to be the most rewarding (not just in terms of material success). We should neither be too narrow in our endeavors, nor spread our talents so thin we have little effect in any particular undertaking. The prayer’s use of the word courage implies our choices need not be restricted to the easy options. Nor should we eliminate those causes in which we may be ineffective alone, but in collaboration with others we can create a powerful force of change.

Remind yourself of the Serenity Prayer each morning, and particularly when faced with difficulty or a decision.

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