The first time I heard this prayer, it was through a former boyfriend who was helping me to let go of my anxiety. I wasn’t even in recovery yet, and oddly, he wasn’t much of a “God” guy. For a second after I read it in his email, I actually thought that he wrote this prayer… specifically for me (self-centeredness is so blinding), but then later (in the rooms) I realized that this was a prayer written for everyone.
This isn’t only a prayer of letting go, or relinquishing the need to control outcome; it is a deliberate prayer for balance. Most of us can digest the first sentence “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,” but what about the last two requests, “The courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference?” How do we know when to walk in the path of courage, versus letting go of outcome? And if we don’t know whether to be brave or to sit still, then what? Honestly, I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer here. No matter what path you choose, there is always a learning experience, but this is when “doing the next right thing” comes into practice. Either way you choose, if you’re doing the next right thing, then this is your opportunity to practice your own balance. The questions to ask yourself in deciding if your doing the next right thing are:
Is this harmful to me?
Is this harmful to another person? (There is a huge difference between hurting someone, and harming them, so be clear on this. If you’re breaking up with someone, they may be hurt, but they are not ultimately harmed. Harming someone would be like a betrayal, or lying to them).
Are my intentions pure? (In other words, are you doing something for selfish reasons, or do you have an ulterior motive?)
If you answer “no” to all the above, then you’re left with a decision. If the decision is whether or not to look for a better job, or to wait for one to fall in your lap, I would say… there is no harm in looking for a better job. If your decision is something that involves another person, then I would suggest communicating with that person before proceeding, so that you can make an educated decision with all the information laid out before you. I know this is vague, but so often we think there is a “right” or “wrong” decision to make, when in fact, we are ultimately being guided, loved and provided for, no matter what path we choose to walk upon. Even the bad decisions we make deliver consequences that ultimately provide opportunities to learn something of great value.
In my own recovery, I have learned that if I’m getting hung up on the decision making process, then clearly I’m still stuck in “controlling outcome” mode. Sometimes you’ve just got to follow your gut and move forward. If moving forward feels wrong, then stop and sit still for a while. Get used to “feeling” what goes on for you as you’re navigating throughout your life. Most of us are result motivated, but the real treasure of our human experience, is the abstract abundance of personal growth. I’ve met several people who have virtually nothing of value in their possession (house, car, income, etc.), yet they are spiritually rich and incredibly content. They’ve discovered something that most of us fail to recognize; life is not about what you have, it’s about who you are.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept… The courage to change the things I can… and the wisdom…” Walking in the light of this prayer is courageous. It’s the both a statement of surrender, and the vow to stand on my own two feet within a powerful state of acceptance. It’s a rich balance between humility and strength; it’s trusting in something greater than myself, and trusting in myself; it’s faith and reason all in one magnificent package. This is the balance of our human existence. This is what we practice when we are living consciously.
As we make decisions on a daily basis, let us remember this delicate balance without getting hung up on outcome. Remember, it’s not where we end up, but what we learned along the way.