The Serenity Prayer* is my guide to practicing acceptance in all my affairs. It is a prayer for acceptance that allows me to be more fully aware, from the very start of my day, of the vast number of things I cannot control or change, and it reminds me that my very serenity depends on my willingness to accept them as they are.
I devote a chapter in The Gifts of Acceptance on ways to effectively apply the three poetic phrases of the Prayer. For many, the last phrase, “The Wisdom to Know the Difference,” is the most challenging one in practice.
Specifically, how do we know whether we do or do not have the power to change or control a person or situation?
The determination is frequently difficult. Strong emotions—fear and anger, for example—as well as high expectations easily thwart our intentions to realistically consider whether the issue is something over which we truly have power. Denial, too, can impact the determination because of our ignorance or unawareness of (or unwillingness) to accept the underlying reality of the situation.
The requisite wisdom often comes only after enduring the hard, painful consequences of ongoing non-acceptance. The pains of non-acceptance will likely occur at different times for each of us because there will always be things and people we aren’t able to accept—at least initially.
Here are two ways that will help you with the wisdom to know the difference and thereby optimize the benefits of The Serenity Prayer:
Pause and Reflect
When first faced with contentious issues or people, take a moment (or as some say, “pause”) to consider whether you can realistically expect to change matters. Try not to react impulsively or retaliate. Fear and anger often emerge, and it is important to constructively process these emotions as soon as you are able. Try to remember the acronym for FEAR: Future Events Already Ruined.
Pausing and reflecting in this manner will ground you and enable you to better evaluate what is really at stake and its importance, and that in turn will allow you to address the situation or person in a more constructive, responsive manner.
Consider Whether You Can Meaningfully Impact the Person or Situation
Even if you feel you can change or have some impact on the matter or person, consider whether any success is worth the cost and energy—and anguish.
What I have found extremely helpful in uncertain situations is to ask myself “Can I have any meaningful impact on the person or situation?” If I don’t think I can, I accept the current situation or circumstance and move on. Similarly, it is also helpful to ask oneself, “How important is this to me?”
Remember, not everything is a crisis, but anything can become one if you fail to let go of control and accept “what is.”
Please share with me what you have found helpful in determining whether or not you have the power to change certain people or things in your life, giving specific examples if you can.
In the meantime,
Let It Go—and Accept “What Is.”
….and Let’s Help Make Acceptance Go Viral!
*”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.”
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