What if I told you that if you remember a 25-word prayer, you can resolve any problem in life? You’re probably already skeptical and thinking “what bullsh*t?”. But before you jump to that conclusion, allow me to explain to you the power of the famous Serenity Prayer.
For most people, worrying is a full-time job. When you’re running on autopilot, you’re worrying. And when you finally find some relief, it doesn’t take long for the default mode network of your brain to bring you back to worrying.
So how do you escape worrying, anxiety, and fear?
The answer lies in the mighty Serenity Prayer.
What Is The Serenity Prayer?
Reinhold Niebuhr wrote the Serenity Prayer in around 1934. Since then, it has been widely used in churches and in the Alcoholics Anonyms (AA) twelve-step program. Now, it’s also called the AA prayer (or the AA Serenity Prayer).
Although it’s a prayer to God, like me, you don’t need to be religious to use the serenity prayer in your life. In fact, the essence of the Serenity Prayer is one of the core concepts of Stoicism philosophy.
When so many people give and follow this ancient advice, there must be some wisdom we all can remind ourselves of. So here goes the Serenity Prayer…
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.
Reading the Serenity Prayer once is not enough. You must use this regularly so you can come back to serenity. That’s why it’s a good idea to use it as a prayer and recite it whenever you need it.
Now let’s break down the meaning of each phrase of the Serenity Prayer one by one. Then we’ll get to the practical application of the Serenity Prayer:
God, Grant Me The Serenity…
The word “serenity” comes from the Latin word “serenus” which translates to “clear”. To be serene is to have clarity. That word perfectly suits the serenity prayer. When we’re facing problems in life, we rarely take time to get clear. We keep banging our heads into the wall, mostly because we try to change the things we can’t control.
To Accept The Things I Cannot Change
Once you’ve paused to get clear, the next step is to surrender to what is. Letting go of everything you can’t change and accepting it with gratitude are the wisest thing to do. Because the only thing you can do is change your perception about the things you can’t change. How you think about your problems is up to you.
Courage To Change The Things I Can…
If surrender is yin, courage is the yang — the courage to take action on the things you can control. Sometimes, it’s just your perceptions and other times, it’s your actions and will. Unjust and unfortunate events happen, but what will you do about them? May you gather the courage to do the right things you need to do regardless of the fear.
And Wisdom To Know The Difference.
Finally, coming back to full circle and being clear about the difference between when to do nothing and when to solve problems. When to be patient and when to act. When to let go and when to hold on. This wisdom is not easy to come by. That’s why we remind ourselves of the serenity prayer day after day to become calm and centered again.
Three Examples Of The Serenity Prayer In Everyday Life
Now let’s see how you can apply the wisdom in your day-to-day life with these practical examples:
1. What Other People Think Of You
Ever since I was a kid, I have been self-conscious. About my looks. About my personality. About my reputation. I would try to change people’s perceptions of me all the time.
I would do anything to please others and to make sure they don’t judge me wrongly. As you can guess, I developed social anxiety. Even after being aware of this, it was hard for me to let go of it because childhood programming is hard to change.
But then I realized something…
It wasn’t the other’s judgment about me I was afraid of, but I was afraid of judging myself. Someone’s opinion of me has nothing to do with me. I don’t have to agree or disagree or do anything about it. I can let it be.
The only things that matter are self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-love, and self-improvement. If I know who I am, I don’t need to convince anyone. I don’t need an approval certificate from anyone. I don’t need permission from anyone.
What’s not in your control — Other’s people’s actions and perceptions about you.
What’s in your control — Your actions and your perception about yourself.
2. The Mistakes You Make
It’s a hard fact for us all to digest that we’re not perfect humans. Heck, we’re not even special. I make mistakes all the time. I lose money. I say the wrong things. I miss opportunities. I don’t always think right. I fall flat on my face. In short, I mess up.
I embrace the fact that I’m imperfect. If I were perfect, it won’t be fun to be myself. There will be nothing to improve, fix or learn. So the more mistakes I make, the more I remind myself of the beauty of being a human. I make mistakes, therefore I exist.
What’s not in your control — What has already happened.
What’s in your control — What you do, what you learn and how you perceive mistakes.
3. Your Life Story
I was born in an average household in an Indian family. Since I wasn’t the brightest kid in the school, I was on a hunt to find a secret talent that may have set me apart. But I found nothing. There was literally nothing special about me.
Yes, I was fortunate that I wasn’t born on the streets among homeless people. But I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth either.
We all are born and raised in different circumstances. Some may grow up in a poor family. And some may grow up in a rich family, but they may have been deprived of love from their parents. Those were the cards you were dealt with. There’s nothing you can do about it.
What you can do is learn to play the cards. No matter what stories you’ve lived in the past, you can change the story you want to live. Life is all about re-writing stories. The stories about yourself. The stories about what you’re capable of. The stories about what you can achieve.
What’s not in your control — The cards you’re dealt with.
What’s in your control — How you use the cards and change your story.
The Other Versions Of The Serenity Prayer
Here’s the most known, full version of the Serenity Prayer:
God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
I also found these two serenity quotes useful:
“God, grant me the serenity to stop beating myself up for not doing things perfectly, the courage to forgive myself because I’m working on doing better, and the wisdom to know that You already love me just the way I am.” ― Eleanor Brownn
God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me. — Unknown
With that, let’s recite the original version of the Serenity Prayer once again and remember it each time we’re hit with the inevitable challenges of life: