You know the prayer. Whether you are in recovery or not chances are you have come across it at least once in your life. It is said often and is a guiding tool in how we all should live our life. For those of us in recovery it is absolutely a paramount action and ideal to strive towards. And yet for some of us, it’s meaning, it’s story seems to elude us. This is the serenity prayer like you have never heard it before from the heart of a recovered addict.
Let’s take a look at what the prayer actually is to begin.
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
The courage to change the things I can.
And the wisdom to know the difference.
This is the shortened version of course, but put simply, in those three lines lives and breathes a design for living that can give each individual human being exactly what it is named for, serenity. Want to walk through life carrying with you peace and happiness? Practice those three lines.
How to Practice the Serenity Prayer
But how right? It is a much easier feat to say those three lines than it is to practice them. As it is with most things, they are usually easier said than done. But it doesn’t have to be complicated and it doesn’t have to be difficult. You just have to follow this little story.
The Story of the Prayer
Once upon a time there was a girl. And all she had ever known was the ever-stretching road before her. Her journey had started on that road and she was sure it would end on that road. And right she was. Until the day she died she would be traveling this path just like she had been since the day she was “born.”
And oh how she hated it. Because of the path she was unhappy. The path was never what she wanted it to be. “Stupid path,” she would mumble to herself, kicking the rocks that laid on it.
Arms folded, cursing the sun for being too bright, and the wind for messing up her hair. That path….it was always too hilly, too steep, too hard to climb, too wet, too slippery, too barren, dry, hot, cold, windy, too flat etc. etc.
“Why this path?” she’d ask herself.
There was always something wrong with the path. It was never exactly how she wanted it to be. She thought of all the ways the path could be better and more to her liking. She thought of how much easier the path would be without the hills, without the wetness, without the wind.
Doing What We Think We Can
And so she decided she was going to do what she could to change it, to make the path the way she thought it should be, to make it easier. If only the path looked and went the way she wanted it to, it would be perfect! Everything would be perfect!
She began walking off the path to gather the necessary things to make the path exactly how she pictured it in her mind. Never realizing what an impossible feat it would be to change the entire landscape.
When she left the path to go find what she needed to begin making the necessary changes, she slowly started to lose her way lost. Lost in thought and pictures of what her path would soon look like, she wandered further and further, around and around. Deep and dark in the forest there was no path. She hadn’t even noticed.
Until there was only darkness and it seemed to stretch on forever and ever. She looked around her and wondered how she had found herself so deep in this forest. She had been lost in pictures of what her path could look like for hours. Never noticing her surroundings. And the forest was scary. It was really dark. And she was lost, lost, lost.
She suddenly realized she would give anything to be back on the path even if it wasn’t exactly what she thought it should be. But she couldn’t find her way back. She was ready to give herself up to the oblivion that was this deep dark forest. She threw her hands up in the air, giving up. She screamed at the sky, “Why did I do this to myself?”
She came to the realization that her idea of what was good for her, of what was a good path wasn’t good at all. Look at where she was! She was lost, alone, angrier than ever and afraid!
It was getting colder by the second in those deep dark woods. The sun had set long ago and all could she do was pray that the sun would come up the next day. The darkness overwhelmed her. So she closed her eyes and she said one last prayer and tried to sleep.
When she opened her eyes, she was blinking underneath the rays of warm sunshine. And there towards the horizon was the path. She pushed herself up, stood and thanked the sky for the sunshine.
She began to run for the path. The path she had so wanted to change. That she had so despised, that was never right, or good enough, that needed to be different than it was. And here she was sprinting for it. When she finally reached the path again she saw how beautiful it was. How had she not noticed before? How had it changed?
Her gratitude brought to life all the things she had been missing by finding everything wrong with it. The trees were alive with birds. The flowers were waving in the breeze. The earth still moist, smelled of morning dew (if morning dew had a smell.) The hills were a dark blue against the sky in the distance. She finally realized it wasn’t the path that needed to change, it was her. With a new perspective the path had become everything she had wanted and so much more.
The wisdom came. Her heart raced at the experience of new knowledge, at the feeling of true serenity. She finally realized.
Her path had been laid out for her long before she started walking it. The lay out of the path, the hills, the valleys, the rain, the rocks and the trees—she couldn’t change. But she could change her perspective of all the things in her path and of her path as a whole. So through her fear and desperation, she got the courage to let go of her old way of thinking and began her journey once again. Never wanting to get lost again, she began walking again, this time with new eyes and the wisdom to know that she couldn’t change the path only herself. And the rest is history. She was never lost again. She walked her path with grace, beauty, peace, and most of all serenity—until the day her path ended.
The Moral of the Story
The moral of the story is, when we try to change the things we can’t possibly change we end up becoming miserable, lost, afraid, lonely, sad, angry etc. When we accept the things we can’t change, and instead change what we can (which is almost always ourselves) we find a new perspective, a new beauty in life, and serenity. Now of course there are decisions on “our path.” These decisions are hills on our path, if you will, and can be handled with grace if we look at them as lessons, ways to make our legs stronger, ways to learn to become better. And as long as we don’t try to flatten the hill and instead accept it and do what we can and climb it—we will carry with us always what the serenity prayer talks about. Every day we try to gain the wisdom to know what is ours to change and what isn’t—every day we try to remember not to change the path, but simply to keep walking it with a perspective of gratitude and faith.
And that my friends, is the serenity prayer as you have never heard it before.