Magill Counseling Associates

Serenity Part 4

In the previous posts, we discussed the Courage to change what we can, the Serenity to accept what we can’t, and the Wisdom to know the difference.  These are often the focus of the Serenity prayer.  However, there is more to the Serenity Prayer than that.

The Serenity Prayer begins: “God, grant me the”.  These are four tiny, yet massively significant words. I think that, without these four words, the entire Serenity Prayer would fall apart.

When was the last time you were upset about something that happened in the past, and had difficulty letting go?  Or were trying to make a change and couldn’t or were too afraid to even start?  Experience has taught me that the Serenity Prayer is impossible to live out on our own.  And I think this is why it starts with God.

Every person has their own limits for what they can accept, and how much courage they can demonstrate.  Everyone at some point becomes confused or disoriented.  This is the nature of the life we live.  And God knows this. To illustrate this, let’s look at several verses from the Bible:

Philippians 4:7 talks about the Peace of God which goes beyond our understanding giving us comfort.  In other words, a serenity from God shows up when we can’t find a reason to be calm or full of peace, like having serenity to change what we cannot change.

2 Corinthians 12:9 talks about our weakness being a time when God’s power frequently shows up.  This isn’t to say we should try to be weak, but rather that when we are, when we want to give up, that God shows up powerfully/  When we are at our weakest is when God can show up in powerful ways.  The courage to change what we can, especially when we don’t want to or don’t think we can, is a tremendous gift from God that he wants to give us.  At our weakest, we need to remember to turn to him, and we will find the courage to change the things that we can.

James 1:5 talks about God generously giving people wisdom.  Ever have difficulty moving forward and not knowing they way?  Not sure of what you can change, and what to accept?  Ask God, and he can help you determine the next steps.  This looks different for every person.  For some, it is a clear voice or direction, other people gain this wisdom from doing or experience. Whatever this gift looks like, it is still a gift of wisdom from God that helps us know what is within our control and what isn’t within our control.

The Serenity Prayer starts by asking God to provide the content of the prayer, especially Serenity, Courage, and Wisdom.  He provides all of that to those that ask.  We can make progress in some aspects of our life on our own by following the Serenity Prayer.  However, we will eventually hit the limits of what we can do and will need additional help.  Why not ask God, who wants to provide for us, to give us the serenity, courage, and wisdom that goes far beyond anything we can do or imagine?

Serenity Part 3

In previous posts, we discussed the Courage to change what we can and the Serenity to accept what we cannot change.  In this post, we will discuss the Wisdom to know the difference between what we can and cannot change.

This might seem like common sense: there are certainly things that no one can change, and there are certainly things that anyone can change, right?  But things might not always be as obvious as they may seem.

If you arrive late to work due to an accident, is that something you can or cannot change?  Typically this would be considered something outside our control.  We weren’t involved in the accident, we couldn’t prevent it, and we cannot control the flow of traffic.  These things are all outside of our control.

However, there are aspects of this situation that are within your control.  Did you check the traffic before you left? Did you plan alternate routes in case the road was blocked or delayed?  Did you leave early enough to still arrive on time if something happened on the way?  All of these things are in your control and can help make sure you get to work on time.

In this example, it initially looks like the situation is not inside our control, but much of it really is inside our control.  Wisdom makes the situation clear and identifies areas we can change for a better outcome next time.  Wisdom identifies some things are not in our control – like how family, coworkers, friends, etc. respond to what we say or do.

This wisdom is critical in making positive change.  Imagine the frustration that can happen without it!  We can try and try and try to make changes with no progress!  Or worse, we can ignore critical areas of our lives or situation that only we can change, keeping us stuck!  Wisdom with courage creates forward momentum, and wisdom with serenity allows a sense of freedom and acceptance from worrying about what he have no say over.

Robert Magill

Serenity Part 2

In the previous Serenity post, I discussed the courage needed to change the things we can change.  Today, I would like to talk about the serenity (or peace) to accept things we cannot change.

This part of the Serenity Prayer is in many ways the most difficult.  Accepting something seems passive, like we aren’t doing anything about the circumstances we are facing.  And we aren’t.  At least not directly.  When we accept something outside our control, we are acknowledging there is nothing we can do about the situation.  This doesn’t mean we have to like it.  We don’t even have to tolerate it, but we do need to accept the situation for what it is.

It is easy to get tripped up on what acceptance is.  Acceptance is not saying that everything is ok or can never change.  Acceptance is recognizing the situation for what it is and acknowledging the reality of the situation.  To use an example: if someone has diabetes and went to the doctor, they need to accept the diagnosis as accurate before they make the changes they need to make.  If the don’t accept the diagnosis, they wont do anything different and the diabetes will get worse.  If they do accept the diagnosis – that they do indeed have diabetes – then they can take the steps needed to get better.

It is not easy to accept what we cannot control or change, but doing so can bring peace about the situation.  This peace comes because when we accept something as real but outside our control, we can rest on knowing he have done absolutely everything in our power to address the situation.  Instead of becoming even more concerned, we can trust God for the outcome (more on that later).  And so, we both need and will find the peace to accept the things we cannot change.

So far, we discussed accepting what cannot change and changing what we can change.  Next week, we will look at the wisdom to know the difference between what we can and cannot change.

Serenity Part 1

When was the last time you were looking forward to a great day off, only to find all sorts of problems: the alarm didn’t go off, the car won’t start, someone stole your debit card info and you have no money in the bank… all before 9AM!  Well, hopefully no one has a day that goes that bad, but we all have bad days.  As problems happen, we become more and more frustrated.

Did you ever watch someone going through this?  Did you ever see them make a problem worse because in their frustration they try to do something they can’t, or ignore something they can easily do?  Much frustration and wasted effort can come from trying to control things we have no power over, and ignoring what we can change.  I think the Serenity Prayer, when allowed to have an impact, is a wonderful way of approaching life.  It reads:

God, Grant Me:

The Serenity to Accept the Things I Cannot Change,

The Courage the Change the Things I Can,

And the Wisdom to Know the Difference.

Starting with courage, there are many things that are within our ability to control.  What time we get up, who we spend time with, how we communicate, and where we work are all things we have control over, to name a few.  Sure, we might not have 100% control over if we get hired or fired somewhere, but our actions can have an impact.  If I never show up for work, I will get fired.  If I go beyond expectations and show I am a valuable employee, I am probably secure in my job.  We have more control over our lives than we realize. It takes tremendous courage to look at ourselves and our situations and identify what we have control over, because we are responsible for those things.

Recognizing what we have control over is necessary, but is only a first step.  If I want change to happen, I need to do something about what I can change.  How can I, or anyone, meet our goals without making some sort of change?

So, we need to make change, how do we make the change happen? Simple: plan it out.  A plan sets the long-term vision, short-term measurable goals, and steps to get there.  It is a blueprint for change that can be followed daily, if we do the work. It’s not always easy, but it is doable.

Courage gives us the ability to make the difficult decisions and follow through despite life’s challenges.  Not everything will be easy or enjoyable, but it may be necessary for us to meet our goals. Courage to face those obstacles, and the unknown future, will help us make the changes we need.