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 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.

I might forgive, but I can’t forget!

adult-alone-anxious-568027Did someone ever do something to you that hurt so much you thought the relationship was over? Maybe the relationship didn’t end, but you were still hurt you and angry! They need to pay for what they did! And then a friend tells you to “forgive and forget”. Yeah, right! You might be able to forgive them… eventually, but you can’t possibly forget what they did. I mean, can you?  Is it even healthy to forget how someone wronged you?  What about  justice?

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Stress is Good (No, Really!)

adult-alone-black-and-white-551588If I asked most people the last time they didn’t feel stressed, they would stare blankly at me.  Or possibly laugh.  We all know what stress is and what causes it:  we hit the snooze button and end up running 20 minutes late, the kids arguing like gremlins in the back seat, or the boss who hates every single thing every person does.

Stress has become a way of life for most people.  Without getting too technical, stress is any change from “balance”.  When things are balanced, we experience a feeling of calm–unbalanced times create chaos.

But is it okay to not always feel calm and balanced?  Well, yes and no.

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Rebuilding Trust

ancient-arch-architecture-983713Did you ever do something you thought a family member or partner wouldn’t mind, only to find out the opposite–you violated their trust and now the relationship is in ruins?  Or maybe it’s not in ruins, but there’s definitely damage done–whether you meant it or not?  Unfortunately, this happens a lot, especially when there is a history of disappointments in the relationship.

Trust is crucial to relationships. Without trust relationships quickly fall apart.

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What is Anxiety?

Did you ever have that pit-in-your-stomach feeling right before a big meeting or important test?  You probably have, because we all get anxious at times.  However, sometimes the anxiety starts to get out of control.  We start staying up later and later because our thoughts won’t slow down.  We start finding more and more to worry and be anxious about!  We even start getting anxious because we are anxious!

Anxiety really can become a debilitating vicious circle.  In our fast-paced, perfection-seeking culture, there never seems to be an end of things to be anxious about.  However,  Read More

How Does Counseling Help?

Many times when I meet with someone for the first time, they explain what brings them to counseling and then ask how counseling can help.  I think that is a fantastic question!

If you have not done so already, please read my blog post on Mountains for some background info on my view of the counseling relationship.

Similar to the Sherpa keeping his client safe, I view the counseling relationship as a safe

space for the client to share what is urgent, pressing, important, etc. to a trained and objective person.  Sometimes, simply being able to express a deep desire, hurt, or pain to someone that is trusted is enough to find relief.  Sometimes – like a Sherpa pointing out

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What is Christian Counseling?

Way back before I started graduate school to be a counselor, when I first heard the term “Christian Counseling” I immediate pictured two people sitting in a room reading a Bible and praying.  I thought that was a Bible study and I wanted nothing to do with that.  If I wanted to lead a Bible study, I would do that instead of become a counselor.

I then graduated from graduate school and started working with Christian clients who valued their faith like I do.  Like any good counselor, I was open to sessions discussing religious beliefs because our beliefs shape our view of the world and our experiences.  I

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Is Online Counseling Right for Me?

Did you ever want to talk with a family member, good friend or colleague and, for whatever reason, calling or texting wasn’t a good option?  Sometimes, using Skype or Facetime is the best option – especially when you want to see the other person.

Online counseling (also called telemental health, telehealth, remote counseling, etc.) works in a similar way.  Sometimes it isn’t practical or preferred to go to a counselor’s

office, but it is still important to meet with a counselor.  You could call and talk to the

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Why Mountains?

I have been asked several times “Why do you have mountains on your website?  Couldn’t that look like a person’s problems are too big and unchanging – like a mountain?”.  Well, it could look like that, and I am sure many people feel that their problems are just like a mountain, but that doesn’t have to mean they have to stay that way.

I would like you to think with me for a moment.  How many steps does it take to get to

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