The Wisdom to Know the Difference

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.

Not long ago, I was at a conference and heard a journalist share about her recent interview with Dr. Wayne Dyer. She’d asked him about the Serenity Prayer, wondering how we can develop the wisdom to know the difference.

Her query got me thinking. How do I know when to surrender and when to act? And then it hit me.

I can only change one thing, ME -- my words, my actions and my thoughts.

When I decide to take control, I’m in charge and responsible for my life. From this place I feel empowered because I can indeed effect change and evolve myself.

Accepting the things I cannot change is harder.

We all want other people to change. Being a recovering perfectionist, I was always attempting to improve family members and in particular, my spouse. It never worked and instead, created more tension, ill will and frustration for both of us.

But even more than wanting to control the people in my life, I felt compelled to heal the world, vacuum up all the smog and carbon in the air, single handedly clean the oceans and rivers. Every time I heard about a natural disaster somewhere my heart hurt and I felt responsible. I had to do something about it.

Then it dawned on me one day that I couldn’t.

I couldn’t magically make everything better (at least not yet). Focusing on all of the negativity oppressed me too, and made me feel helpless. That’s when I had to re-think what I can and cannot change.

I still care about our environment and about the people in my life but now instead of allowing myself to be overwhelmed, I ask what can I do?

  • I can love and accept my family.

  • I can recycle, buy local or sustainable products, donate my time or money, drive a hybrid, ride a bike or walk.

  • I can pray and envision the world I want for my children.

The wisdom lies in the knowing–that all I have control over is me.

At first it can sound limiting and limited. But in reality, when we change ourselves and how we show up in the world, we can change the world. So the next time you’re wondering how to know the difference, ask yourself, “Is this about me or about my need to control or save someone else?” And pretty quickly you’ll have an answer.

How have you interpreted the Serenity Prayer? 
Let me know your thoughts.

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