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Reflections - It all boils down to...
Thursday, March 9, 2017 - 00:00 Eleanor Deckert
Religion and ethics. Diet and exercise. Raising your own kids or coaching the team. Government and health issues. The work we do and the recreation we participate in. Hobbies, music, you name it. Even cooking.
Just to remind you, here is the most commonly quoted version used by Twelve-Step recovery programs:
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.
How could such a short, seemingly simple sentence be so highly valued and multipurpose? Let me demonstrate.
Raising a family is what I have the most experience with, so we'll start there. Governing four children has given me lots of practice. Some things I cannot change: who arrived in what order, limitations and potentials are there already. Some things I set up myself: “Wash your hands before you eat.” “Bedtime is 7o'clock.” “Write your Grandmother a thank-you note.”
Some things appear permanently in place, but really, there are changes that could happen: where we live, work, go to school and church, income, vehicle, lifestyle.
Most things are a combination of “cannot change” and “can change.” I have to eat, but I have choices. I have to work, but there are options. We are married, but we don't have to do every single thing together.
Let's try again. How about sports? These are the rules, equipment, boundaries, number of team members. Now - get out there and play ball!
Look at the infinite variations!
Music: There are only 12 notes... and yet there are infinite possibilities resulting in ever increasing compositions.
Diet: I need these vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients. But, I can find them from various sources.
Exercise: My heart and lungs, muscles and bones need to move to be healthy. This fact does not change. However, I have myriad opportunities to move, and even the choice to skip it.
Even religious, moral and ethical decisions can be simplified with this easy-to-remember prayer. What is the part of this situation that cannot change? What can change? The Ten Commandments are not the Ten Suggestions. Yes, they are written in stone. Does this make me rigid and uninterested in exploring and discovery? Far from it.
The security of the strong legs of my chair combine with the soft cushion to give me both support and comfort. The strength of the unchanging walls of my house protect me, but the doors and windows can open and close according to my needs. The security of my marriage vows protect our family and within that strength, my husband, children and I are free to move and grow and develop. “Thou shalt not steal” makes commerce possible.
The elements of the Serenity Prayer can be found in many ancient texts; a longer form was composed by Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1930s and published in 1951. Even Mother Goose has another way to say the same thing:
For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none
If there be one, try to find it
If there be none, never mind it
So you see, if you recognize some sort of problem you need to address, take a look at the Serenity Prayer. Perhaps you will see a solution when you differentiate between what cannot change and what can.
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