The Serenity Prayer is Messing With Your Head


OK, so first of all let me confess that the title of this post was designed to reel you in. There is nothing wrong with the Serenity Prayer as a whole. However, most people only know the first part. The language of the beginning feeds into a core immaturity and misunderstanding we Western thinkers have with life, specifically being the idea that events are divided up into those we can control, and those we can’t. Here is the first part of the 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.

The hazard of this division, the things we can change and the things we cannot, is how it affects our energy and emotions. It means that we tend to be either hyper-involved or completely checked out. It is like always driving your car at 180 mph and then slamming on the breaks at every stop. You’re going to throw out your engine. We need to stop using words like “change” and “control” and starting using “influence” and “participate.”

You Are Never In Control

If you think you are in control of a situation, then you will be too preoccupied with trying not to lose that control. Control is a terrible illusion, as we never have it, but thinking we do feeds into our worst emotions. We are never more afraid that when we are “at the top,” because we think we have more to lose.

You Are Never Out of Control

On the flip side, you are never helpless or detached from your circumstances. To “check out” of events around you is extremely harmful. Things are never so bad, or so out of hand, that you cannot make a difference by engaging in them. You are here for a reason, never forget that.

You Are Never Alone

Adding to this illusion is the word “I.” Circumstances are never the sum of one person’s actions. We are all in this together. When things are bad, it is always a result of collective and cultural issues. When things are good, it is because we worked together to make them so. Many times, the key to “changing” circumstances is to change the kind of people around you.

God Grant Me the Courage to Always Participate

No matter what your circumstances, you should always be seeking to participate. If it seem like you are in control or not, you can always be a positive influence and an active participant. Because we are “all in this together” sometimes the point of life isn’t to change or control anything, but simply to help lift up and nurture those around you.

God Grant the Wisdom to be Aware of Myself

No matter what your circumstances, you can always change yourself. That doesn’t mean you should always be thinking things are “your fault.” But every season in life is a chance to grow. Perhaps you need to grow your character, but God may also be wishing to teach you the courage to stand up for what is right. The key is to always be asking, “What do I need to learn now?”

“Fixing” the Serenity Prayer

So now that I have spent this article “correcting” the Serenity prayer, let me just repeat that the rest of the prayer is great. We would just do a lot better making the end of it the part we memorize, decorate our walls with, and quote prolifically on social media. And now that I have said all this, it is easy to see this is what the prayer is really saying all along:

Living one day at a time; 

Enjoying one moment at a time; 

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

as it is, not as I would have it; 

Trusting that He will make all things right

if I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life 

and supremely happy with Him

Forever in the next.