I’ve always had trouble with one phrase in the serenity prayer, “to accept the things that cannot be changed.”
The original, attributed to Niebuhr, is:
- God, give me grace to accept with serenity
- the things that cannot be changed,
- Courage to change the things
- which should be changed,
- and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
- Living one day at a time,
- Enjoying one moment at a time,
- Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
- Taking, as Jesus did,
- This sinful world as it is,
- Not as I would have it,
- Trusting, that You will make all things right,
- If I surrender to Your will,
- So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
- And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
- What if the things I cannot change are unfair, damaging, painful, sinful, and just wrong? Is it OK for me to say that these things are in fact wrong? May I call a spade a spade? Wouldn’t anything else be false and God hates falsehood and truth sets us free. When John the Baptist confronted Herod, wasn’t that a situation he could not control yet he stood up and called sin. sin. Of course he lost his head over it.
- I like my version of the prayer:” God help me to do the little I can and like myself when it isn’t that much!”
I think that what I am called to accept is that my grace-strength, mercy-worth, and peace- hope are not attached to the outcome of the situation that I cannot change. That I am free to love the unlovable people who won’t let me change them, to pray for them and do good to them. I need to turn to God and cry out Thanks! Help! and Show me what I can do, rather than focus on what I can’t
When Joseph’s brothers were trying to figure out why he hadn’t killed them all when he could; they concluded that it was because Joseph didn’t want to cause their father pain. When Jacob died, they all ran over to Joseph and begged him to not take it out on them. They still didn’t get it, so Joseph had to explain.