2014 started with some challenging news. There is a 5% margin that I could prevent the worst outcome from happening. However, the disproportionately higher likelihood that it will come to pass—and the pain it will bring me—has been weighing heavily on my mind and in my heart.
When I meditated on the situation over the weekend, I was guided to release control and to trust in Divine Order and the Divinity within each person involved. It’s a reminder that every event is but one thread in the grand tapestry of life; this situation is no exception. Before my time in this human life is over, many hands will have woven threads into this tapestry. Ultimately, I don’t have full control over whose hands will have touched the tapestry, what they will have woven or when. Nonetheless, they will have contributed to my human experience, whether or not I liked it at the time.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
~Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971)
Appropriately, the above prayer, commonly known as “the Serenity Prayer,” came to mind when I was on a nature walk over the weekend. That inspired this post, as I contemplate how the three parts of this prayer apply to the situation at hand. As you read along, you may think about how the wisdom in this prayer may help put in perspective any challenging situation in your life, past or present.
Serenity to Accept What I Cannot Change
When I reflected on the gnawing angst I’ve been feeling around the present situation, much of it stems from helplessness. A huge part of how things may play out ultimately rides on the decisions and actions of others, even though the negative consequences will directly affect me greatly. I can participate in discussions about options and offer my suggestions and opinions—even preferences. But, in the end, what others decide to do is beyond my control.
There is no question that I will suffer from what I cannot change in this situation. However, I can save myself from an additional layer of suffering by resisting that which I cannot change. The less I fight and resist the conditions that are out of my hands and beyond my control, the less I hold tightly to my expectations of how this situation must play out, the less incremental suffering I court.
Courage to Change What I Can
Even while preparing myself to accept with equanimity the worst-case scenario coming to pass, I’ve also been trying to summon the strength and clarity to do what I can in two areas—and to take guided action from love, not force things to happen from fear. First of all, narrow as it is, 5% chance that I may salvage the situation is not 0%. So, I’m working to find a solution that could fit this margin. Secondly, I’m also trying to rise above my fear of the imminent pain associated with the short-term crisis to take action toward realizing a blessing in disguise.
To have the courage to change what I can is to have no regrets. It’s one thing to have no control, it’s quite another to be challenged to summon the requisite courage to do something that may or may not pan out. But at the minimum, if I could be brave and strong enough to act in the midst of fear, I could save myself from the regret of not doing something that might lead to a better future than trying to preserve the status quo in order to avoid short-term pain.
Wisdom to Know the Difference
Upon hearing the news, my immediate reaction was to remain calm and centered in order to assess what could be salvaged. I was very conscious of my strong personal preferences for how the situation should be resolved. It came from the fearful part of me that wanted to resist what I needed to accept and didn’t want to face what I would need to do. In other words, my fear-based response was the exact opposite of what the first two parts of the Serenity Prayer would recommend.
This third, critical part of the prayer underscores the importance of being grounded in my higher self in order to recognize what to accept and what to change. I’m learning that life is a series of choices to ride a fine balance between acceptance and courage to act. It really does take wisdom—and heart—to know the difference between what to accept and what to change.
With the above reflections in my consciousness, I intend to continue navigating this situation with the serenity, courage and wisdom to take right action on conditions that need to change and to surrender resistance and control on the parts I need to accept.
So, what do you think? Do you agree with the essence of the Serenity Prayer? Which of the three parts, if any, particularly resonates with you?
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