6. The Serenity Prayer
Get on your feet.
First Things

6. The Serenity Prayer

The Serenity Prayer goes like this:

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

Someone could easily write a whole book just about that one prayer.

In a previous chapter, I spoke of the unhappinesses we sometimes create ourselves. I said there are two other sources of unhappinesses that we meet in life. They are: the unhappinesses other people create (their "sins"); and, the randomness of events. The Serenity Prayer equips me to handle all of them.

(1) The unhappinesses other people create

These are, in short, the things they do wrong. Sometimes they will do you wrong. I gave a list in the previous chapter; note that, as I said there, even choosing to be unhappy, is a wrong thing. Sometimes we have a choice, sometimes we don't. I'll say more about that here below.

Sometimes, the folk you'd least expect will do you wrong, or disappoint you. I learned long ago that practically anyone can be childish or petty; that it's a mistake to expect folk to be reasonable.

(2) The randomness of events

Shit happens.

God has created the universe as a basically orderly place. I discussed this some in Chapter 5. The electrons in an atom all spin around the nucleus in good order and perfect harmony. The planets orbit the Sun in perfect order and harmony. Yet random events occur; turmoil occurs. Earthquakes and tornadoes. Also toothaches, headaches, migraines; sports injuries; arthritis. Also flat tires, traffic accidents, broken shoestrings.

We can toss in: disagreements with family members, co-workers, partners.

These things can affect us and can bring unhappinesses into our world.

There is often no use in asking why. The thing happened. There may never be a "why" that we can understand. The thing happened. That's all there is, to why.

Related: Farther along

Stages of grief

Whenever any bad thing happens, a person normally goes through five phases of emotional response. Some of these involve sadness and anger, such that, to some extent, one can hardly help feeling sad or angry. But one may have choices as to how long one's grief, one's sadness or anger, endures.

  1. The first phase is often denial: one simply denies the bad news; one literally cannot believe it.
  2. The second phase is anger, once one admits that the bad thing has actually happened.
  3. The third phase is bargaining, wherein one tries to find some way around the bad thing having happened. "If so-and-so had only done this," the bad thing would not have happened; or, one may search for some way to undo the unhappy event, make things as if it hadn't happened.
  4. The fourth phase is depression, sadness.
  5. The last phase is acceptance, being OK with the facts as they are, with What Is, and becoming willing to get on with one's life.

Sometimes someone skips a phase; sometimes one "loops" back from a later phase to an earlier phase (going from sadness back into denial, for example). Each phase can be short or long, depending somewhat on one's personality — and somewhat on one's choices.

Most significantly, people can get "stuck" in anger or sadness, and stay there practically forever; if one obsesses about one's anger (or sadness), thinks about the bad thing all the time, chooses to play the victim — basically, falls in love with feeling bad.

That's unnecessary.

Acceptance …

… is the first thing the Serenity Prayer prays for. To be OK with What Is, the facts as they are, and be willing to get on with life. To have no more anger nor sadness about things that have happened. To be content with oneself. To let go of choosing to feel bad. To look again at the happinesses available in life; the blessings you yourself can create.

"Keep the focus on you"

… is a core slogan of the Twelve Steps movement, and reflects the Serenity Prayer, and is good for anyone to practice. If I "accept the things I cannot change," including (1) the things other people do and (2) the randomness of events; I may turn my attention to "the courage to change the things I can." This is key: the things I can change include my own thoughts, actions and habits; these are the things over which I have power. To have and maintain peace of mind, it's essential to "keep the focus on you."

If you WANT to feel bad, you will. You are free to choose serenity instead.