Serenity. Calmness. Peace. Tranquility. Balance. Quiet.
Lord, Grant me the Serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, Courage to change the things that I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.
This prayer, recited by millions of people all around the world for at least 70 years since it was composed by protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, is a source of strength and balance to those who understand its power.
Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change.
What are the things that I cannot change? Often times, people who are suffering depression are trying to change things they cannot change or getting upset that they cannot change certain things in life that they feel are important for their overall well-being. I have been giving quite a number of mental health sessions during this time of Covid-19 and it is clear to me that for a huge number of people, their suffering is more because of their refusal to accept the changed times than in the changed times themselves. Make no mistake, the times have changed negatively for millions and with painful results. The effect of the pandemic goes beyond the immediate sickness and death that it causes. It is the economic impact that seems to cause even more pain in many countries, Kenya included. Millions of Kenyans have lost jobs or have had their income severely reduced. Many have left the city and urban centers and gone back to the rural areas where the lower cost of living is a welcome relief.
Is it possible to change the fact that there is Covid-19 or that it has had devastating economic consequences? No. Is it possible to deny the fact that one has lost their job and that their income has reduced? No. Can we change global circumstances immediately? Can we even change national problems such as corruption and other social evils at a moment’s notice? Not a chance. We cannot change other peoples’ choices and actions however much we love those people or however much their actions have harmful consequences to themselves or their families. We cannot change the fact there are wars, fires, explosions, diseases and other evils and tragedies. If we allow ourselves to be worried sick of those happenings beyond our capacity to do something immediately, we lose our serenity and peace which then results to us becoming a problem too.
Lord, grant me the courage to change the things that I can change.
How easy it is to commit ourselves to change the national politics and economics without having to change our personal value systems? How easy it is to take a social problem and dedicate our life to it without changing as individuals! Often times, the things that we need to change and can change: our beliefs, attitudes, worldviews, choices and actions, are the most difficult to change and they require courage and consistency. They require each of us to take personal responsibility for how we respond to what happens to us and how we approach our present and the future. To refuse to face the demons in our psyche; our refusal to question our beliefs, question the ground of our self-worth and the relationships we keep has more negative consequences on our levels of well-being and meaning in life more than the global issues that we focus on.
And Wisdom to know the difference.
To know the difference between the things you can change and those that you cannot is being smart. To actually take up the small and the big things that you can change and doing something about it and refusing to wallow in thoughts of things beyond our control is wisdom.
There are two kinds of suffering and all of us must chose the suffering they prefer. The suffering of trying to change the things you cannot change, at least not alone and not immediately, and the suffering of changing your mindset, choices, habits and beliefs.
You have to choose your suffering because either way, you will have to suffer.
Lord, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference.