The world is a big and busy place and sometimes that can really run a person down. Concerns for the environment, concerns over politics, family stresses, all while working enough to put food on the table. How is a person supposed to get any peace? Is the secret to do everything you can to make your part of the world a better place even if it means wearing yourself thin? Or is the secret to bury your head in the sand and only think about things that directly affect you? Maybe It’s a little of both.
The Serenity Prayer was written by an American theologian in the 1930s, and while it is Christian in nature, it provides comfort and wisdom to atheists, agnostics, and people of different religious traditions because of its simplicity and encouragement. The prayer is only three lines long:
God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to accept the things I can change,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
The Serenity To Accept The Things I Cannot Change
The first line, whether you choose to say it as a prayer or recite it like a poem, pursues serenity by accepting what cannot be changed. Certainly, one way to feel better about problems is to just ignore them, but this still may seem like a rather depressing way to start.
The line, however, does not say to “ignore” the things you cannot change, but to “accept” them. This doesn’t only mean accepting things beyond your power as not your problems but accepting those problems as more nuanced than we often realized. It’s easy to be mad at something or afraid of something when you see the world as black and white, but if you open your eyes to the colors in between it can be easier to go with the flow.
The Courage To Accept The Things I Can
This next line is more action oriented and recognizes that there are things in this world that we can change and things in this world that we should change in order to make the serenity that we seek more attainable.
Whether it’s voting for what you believe in, speaking up when you see something wrong, or volunteering in your area, there are ways, no matter how small, in which you can actively change the world for the better.
Of course, this requires more than just recognizing an opportunity, it requires courage. The courage to look for changes that you can make in the world rather than staying in your own bubble, and the strength to reach out and make those changes.
Of course, in a small way, this is going to involve stepping out into that chaotic world, making this a counter-intuitive aspect of pursuing serenity. You may not experience serenity in the moment that you are trying to make the world more serene, as trying anything can be stressful. Just as you can (hopefully) unwind from your work when you return home with a sense of accomplishment, trying to make the world a better place can be stressful in the moment but can provide an overall improved sense of wellbeing.
The Wisdom To Know The Difference
This final line may be the most important, and it brings us back to some of the questions that we asked in the introduction.
Achieving serenity is not about burying your head in the sand, nor is it about planting your flag on every hill you find. Achieving serenity is about finding peace in the world, not in finding world peace. There are things that everyone can do to make the world a better place and you should do those things but there are also things that are beyond your power, and dwelling on them won’t make the situation better or make you feel better.
Remember to always come back to your center and look for that place of peace.