God 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
The Serenity Prayer, which is the cornerstone of AA and other 12 Step Programs, has been around at least since the early 1940s. However the origins of the prayer itself are shrouded in mystery. Most sources are happy to attribute authorship to a German Theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, who states he wrote the prayer for a sermon in 1934. Whatever the case may be, it is widely known that the US Army distributed this prayer all over Germany at the end of World War II.
Much more important than the origins of the prayer is the meaning of the prayer. These three simple lines, when understood and followed daily, bring peace and tranquility into a troubled life.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
The first line of the prayer is asking us to know when to let things go, and to let them go with peace. Every day there will come into our lives people and situations we have no control over. When we can realize that we have no power to change them, we can start working on what we can change, which is ourselves and how we react to certain people and situations.
The courage to change the things I can.
The second line of the prayer is a reminder that it can, indeed, take courage to make changes in our lives. Change may be very frightening for some, even if it is moving from a bad situation into a better situation. Letting go of negative relationships and situations are not always easy. We may still love the person; we may be used to the situation, and find the familiarity comforting. That is why it is important to ask for the courage to be able to make these changes and to remember that no one is expected to do this on their own. Whether we turn to a higher power, close friends or family, or a family doctor or counselor, there is someone there to help make the transition a little easier.
And the wisdom to know the difference.
This may be the most important part of the prayer, for if we lack the wisdom to know when change is possible or not, we may find ourselves beating our heads against the proverbial “brick wall.” We have to remember that we cannot force other people to change, and that sometimes we have no power to change certain situations. Sometimes it is actually just better to move ourselves out of that situation rather than try to force change on others.
The key to happiness does not lie in changing our outer world, but in changing how we see the outer world by changing our inner world. Serenity is found within us, and one way to find that inner peace is to follow the steps of the Serenity Prayer.