Emotional Health•Recovery • 6 minutes to read
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
This past year, two things have become quite obvious to me: there is much about life that I don’t have control over and (even while realizing this) how much I still try to control my world in so many big and small ways.
We were probably tempted to quickly turn the page on 2020 and move on to the new year. I actually bought 2021 calendars for all of the girls in our family, just because I thought it was the best gift you could get anyone this Christmas.
I’m ready to get on with 2021 as much as anyone; however, reflection is such an important part of life and has a lot of wisdom to offer when we do it in a healthy way. It is a gift when we can learn to regularly reflect on our life and not just wait for big milestones or the beginning of a new year. We can incorporate reflection into our daily lives and let it be both an encouragement and teacher.
For the past few months, I have been reflecting on the Serenity Prayer. This prayer is familiar to most people even if we haven’t really focused on it. There is a reason it has been around for almost 100 years and is cherished by AA and so many other recovery programs through the years. It is a simple but profound truth; and it has helped me view this age-old prayer in a new way.
Serenity is a state of being calm, peaceful, or untroubled. This includes staying calm or “centered” in the midst of life’s challenges, as well as life’s graces. It is finding peace in the present moment because of the very fact that I am being present to the moment. It is an untroubled ability to be present to what is.
A question I often ask myself is, “Where is God in what I am experiencing right now?” Not in how I want it to be or how I wish it would have been. Yes, we make plans for the future and we use our past to inform us, but we are still only experiencing God in this present moment.
We often get caught up in our own smaller stories and miss the beauty of what God is doing in the world around us. Serenity allows us to be present with whatever is going on around us as well as within us.
God, grant me a state of calm and peace, an untroubled ability to be present to what is, and to be able to…
Accept The Things I Cannot Change
Letting go: it’s not easy to let go of the particular things we try to hold onto. If this process was easy, we would have already let go. In my experience the habit of letting go first takes awareness, then intention, and finally practice—doing it again and again.
Awareness: we must recognize what we are doing and the results of it. Sometimes we don’t see it, and sometimes we don’t even know what to look for. It’s easy to barrel through life without slowing down to become more aware of where we lack awareness.
Intention: once I am aware, I can look at what I want to do about it. There are things I don’t have control over, but I can control how I relate to people and circumstances. I can decide that I don’t want to repeat the definition of insanity anymore and try something new.
Practice: there are many practices we can incorporate to help us slow down and take inventory of where we need to let go. My favorite right now is when I am triggered by a repetitive negative thought—I remind myself, “Relax and release.” To my body and mind, it’s a reminder to let go of the anxiety and tension the thought creates. I’ve practiced this enough that I can often catch myself quickly and take my thoughts captive before destructive fear takes ahold of my mind, emotions, and body.
Our habits don’t change overnight and the gift of acceptance is one that needs to be repeated. I’ve been reminding myself that change, pain, and discomfort are a part of the human experience. I have the choice whether to keep fighting it or running from it, avoid or ignore it, stay paralyzed in fear or turn to face it.
Accept the things I cannot change, give me courage to…
Change The Things I Can
Acceptance frees up energy to begin to change some of the things within my control.
Without change, we become stagnant. We don’t grow.
I love a tool called the Change Cycle. When I feel stuck or in a lose-lose situation, the way forward is to find a glimmer of HOPE, step out in FAITH, and take a RISK; and, when I see a CHANGE from this risk, I can choose to find the courage to HOPE, step out in FAITH, and RISK again.
We all have good intentions, things we want to change, and habits we want to incorporate into our lives. And we all have “the way we do things now.” What gets in the way of change? Sometimes we aren’t ready for the larger step, so we don’t take any step.
What does it look like to make a small change—stick my toe in the water—and see how this change feels?
Committing to one small thing at a time and sharing it with someone else on a regular basis helps us retrain our brain and pick up a new pattern. The baby step, done over time, becomes a habit.
When I am daily accepting that God is at work in my life today, as it is right now, then I have the ability to turn my focus toward the things I can change. Immediately, it takes me out of a victim mindset: “This is just the way things are.” It opens up the possibilities and boundaries that allow me to love myself well and show up as my best self (or at least a better self) to those around me.
Many of the choices I make today become the habits I will have tomorrow.
Accept the things I can’t change, change what I can, and give me…
Wisdom To Know The Difference
If I’m getting these two mixed up—putting all of my energy into the things I cannot change—how much energy do I have left for the things I can change? What happens to my ability to connect with myself, others, and the Spirit of God within?
Every day, I have a new opportunity to let go of something I cannot change and engage in something I can change. In a way, this allows me to participate in a bigger story than the one I may be trying to write and giving me the opportunity to see something in a new way.
I want to encourage you to daily, ask the Divine, “Where are you at work in my life right now? What am I holding on to that is not in my control? Of the things I want to change, what is within my control?”
Begin to see your life in a new way and develop new patterns.
And, take a risk! Take tiny steps toward change; or maybe a big bold step where needed. Have people in your life who you regularly talk with about these new habits and the changes happening in your life.
Now do this again the next day, and I’ll try too.
God, grant me a state of calm and peace, an untroubled ability to be present with what is, to let go of what I cannot change, change what I can, and wisdom to see the difference.
Change Cycle: Michael Dye, Genesis Process