things I cannot change, I am changing the things I cannot accept." I like that,
very positive and empowering.
Anyway, it got me to thinking about the how useful the actual prayer really is.
Funny thing about the "Serenity Prayer". The AA groupies like to think that "Bill"
invented it....NOT. Not only did AA not pen the quote, they changed it and totally
screwed it up! AA's version goes like this; "God grant me the serenity to accept
the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom
to know the difference."
Something about the 2nd half of the prayer always bothered me but it took me some time
to put my finger on it. After doing some research on the subject, my intuition for what
was wrong with it was confirmed for me. For some reason, AA in its infinite wisdom
changed the prayer from the way that it was originally written. That version, penned by
the well known theologian and political thinker, Ronald Niebuhr, goes as followS; "God,
give us the grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to
distinguish the one from the other." Before I examine the fundamental difference
between using the word CAN instead of SHOULD as far as changing things is
concerned, let me first discuss the first part of the prayer in which both AA
and I are in agreement.
Accepting things that cannot be changed is the only mature and rational response to reality.
The alternative of denial is not a terribly healthy or sane choice. It is our nature to resist
change and continue what is known and therefore comfortable and not dangerous to our
ego. Acceptance means that you acknowledge the world as it is right now, regardless of
whether or not it is as you would like it to be!
The saying, "could have, would have, should have", is very useful in pointing out and
deciphering some of the thoughts that are often present when trying to accept reality and
the ramifications of your actions. Events may take place and you may think to
yourself that if you could go back, that you would have or could have done
something different and therefore the results would have been more favorable. Acceptance
means understanding that that ship has passed and you can't "undo" what is done.
It is what it is!
Now as far as the "should have" goes; here is where you
still may have a chance to "set things right". Maybe you didn't initially do the
right thing or take the best course of action but maybe it isn't too late! This
is where the 2nd part of Niebuhr's version of "The Serenity Prayer" comes into
play. You may very well have the opportunity to "CHANGE THE THINGS THAT YOU
SHOULD TRY AND CHANGE". Of course there are no guarantees that any new course of
action will bring about the desired results, but at least you tried to do the
right thing. After these attempts of making sound choices and trying to undo
past harm are exhausted, then you need to ACCEPT the final results. If you
don't, you are going to get caught up in resentments, self-pity or fear, none of
which are good for your mental state of health.
THEY SHOULD HAVE LEFT IT ALONE.
AA's version of the 2nd half of the prayer, which states that we should
change the things that we can is fundamentally flawed. The problem here is that
we CAN change a whole plethora of things and make them even worse! We can also
affect change that might benefit ourselves but that is hurtful to others or that
is just plain immoral. JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU SHOULD!!!!!
The above comes straight from Chapter 3 of "The Freedom to Recover".
Hope you found it insightful.