Wanna live a happier more serene life? Here’s the key: The Serenity Prayer. A simple little prayer that when lived by will lead you to a good life, no, a great life! It can be a game changer for anyone who really understands and learns to apply it to their lives. This little prayer is typically read at the beginning or the end of a 12 step meeting for those in recovery. But aren’t we all recovering from something? The prayer, in all of it’s simplicity, challenges me to find the balance between Acceptance and Change. Achieving this balance is the recipe to a very good life. I have found this prayer to provide me freedom and peace and even better, I’m a lot more fun.
Let’s face it, I like to control things. I like to have things planned. I don’t like conflict or tension and I have certain rules about how the world is supposed to work. For years, I struggled (and I mean really struggled) when my beloved husband would turn left, when I had expected him to turn right. Of course, we got to the same place but it wasn’t what I had planned. My ducks in a row, yep, that’s me. I can bet you struggle with some control issues, too. How comfortable are you when things don’t go your way? How much fun are you to live with? My fun ratio is directly proportionate to my control ratio. The more I control, the less fun I am to live with.
I’m not judging any one deemed “controlling.” That would be a classic “Pot calling the Kettle black.” I know it serves a function. The only minor issue is that it doesn’t work…at all. For some reason, I can’t control other people. I have always said that the quickest route to crazy-ville is trying to control something you have no control over. I don’t control someone else’s thoughts about me. Someone’s feelings are outside of my realm of responsibility. I don’t even control my kids. I can’t actually make them do anything (though I can influence through my leverage as a parent). This is where the Serenity Prayer comes in.
With Acceptance, comes serenity. What is serenity? Webster defines it as a “state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.” Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t need a little more of this in their life? I sure do. So what do I do to obtain this Nirvana? Accept what I can’t change. It’s that simple and that difficult all at the same time. What do I need to accept? Ummm, I’m afraid you won’t like this answer. Every thing outside of yourself. This is terrible news and so freeing at the same time. My energy can now be poured into area’s that I can actually affect some change. I can’t change people. Events are beyond my power. Death and life are not mine. Other’s feelings, thoughts, intentions, motivations, choices…not in my control. Everything I essentially have tried to control at one point or another in my life aint’ my job!
Let me tell you one more thing about this. We don’t control outcomes either. I can do everything just right. I can have the best plans and things still don’t go my way. There is no magic bullet here. As one client said to me, “Life just keeps ‘life-ing’ me.” We don’t control much, we poor humans. Yet by accepting this difficult truth, I can achieve a “state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.” It seems paradoxical but so true! The irony of giving up control actually makes me feel more empowered. Why? Because I can make change happen in the realm that I actually have some ability to perpetuate change rather than constantly trying to change something I can’t..
Now, lots of us accept things but miss out on the “serenity” piece of it. I still judge people and circumstances as “should or should not” and I get angry and resentful. That’s not really acceptance, people. Real and true acceptance, what I like to call RADICAL acceptance comes with serenity. If you are still angry or frustrated, there are some aspects of the situation or person that you are not accepting. Period. I can accept reality as it is and then take the next step which is to accept that I’m sad about it. I accept that I don’t want this situation to be like this, I accept that the person isn’t who I thought they were, I accept that I am miserable for the time being rather than fighting it and judging reality to be wrong. Acceptance requires all aspects of the situation to be accounted for and then radically accept all of those situations. And then, Serenity happens.
Courage to Change
Courage has been much more difficult for me. Perhaps it’s my personality. I tend to accept things much more easily than I can muster any courage. While there are certainly many, if not most, things outside of my control. There are some things I have some say over and doing this sometimes takes a heckuva lot of courage. I’ve accepted many things in my life that I had no business accepting. I could exact change but I didn’t. The same thing would happen over and over and over again and I sat passively back and allowed it. I was sure that I was doing the “right thing” by accepting certain things but I was actually hurting myself.
I don’t control other people but I can control my choice to tolerate certain treatment. Standing up for myself took courage. Changing and moving from certain comfort zones took a crap load of courage. Becoming an independent individual takes courage, every single day. Let me tell you, when I sit in the discomfort of doing something outside of my people pleasing tendencies, I need a ton of courage. It takes courage to change. It takes faith in yourself to be okay and faith in other people to be okay, too. How much easier is it to just let things slide by? Tolerate it? Deal with it? Avoid it? Yup, I pray for courage A LOT!
Wisdom is essential in this whole process of Acceptance and Change. My response to life is completely up to me. Life circumstances , however, is completely up to Someone Else. I depend on Him to show me when I need courage or when I need acceptance. Sometimes it’s not so clear and other times, it is just so hard to do. Some of you may not have the same beliefs that I do, but either way, we need to grow in Wisdom to know when Life is demanding courage or acceptance. I want to be Wise. My finite amount of energy needs to be pointed in the direction that is actually going to make a difference. The beauty of this is that I find freedom when I really get this and those around me get to find freedom around me too! And guess what? My fun ratio goes way up!
How about you? Do you tend to be more passive in your approach to life or try to control it to death? Leave a comment and tell me how you navigate this essential life lesson of Acceptance and Change.