God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
So simple. So beautiful. So effective. So powerful.
Just like a pythagoras theorem to mathematics, a Charles Dickens to English literature or ‘Ah! Vous dirai-je Maman’ and Mozart to whatever. Simple… effective. You can translate it to any or all languages spoken by human beings, and yet the meaning and the power will not be lost.
This is the prayer recited by every addict who is attending any 12 step program or meeting. It can be said any time when one is in need of guidance. I have started saying it first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
I was unaware of these powerful words throughout my life. My introduction to them was at my first rehab. That time, I did not comprehend the meaning of these words, as I was having trouble with the very first word itself. I never had any religious preferences or biases, but I always had trouble with the whole concept of asking something from God. Why should I? He never did anything for me? In fact, He made things tougher. In all honesty, if he had just let me be, not meddled, I would have been ok.
I kept on fighting, and kept on loosing. All I had to do was to replace the word God with my understanding of a higher power. Every addict knows that what he is doing is wrong, yet we continue to do the same thing over and over again. Simply because, we do not take time to reflect on what we are doing. We do not take guidance. The words prayer, spirituality, serenity just turn us off.
Somewhere during my second rehab, I decided that let me not dwelve on this too much. I decided that I will not say or recite the prayer. I decided that I will just read it. Again and again. When I did that, it dawned upon me the meaning. It gave me hope and it made me free of the guilt and shame that I was always carrying with me. To me, the first key word was ‘Accept’. I realized that acceptance will lead me to freedom. There are times in life, or for that matter even in a war, where refusing to fight or to surrender is the first step towards the victory. You accept your shortcomings and you buy time for an earnest retrospection.
The second key word to me is ‘Courage’. After you accept who you are, comes the courage. The courage to face the things, the courage to change the things.
The third key word, according to me is ‘Wisdom’. Tall order… isn’t it? Here we are, still with drugs in our system, and we are talking about wisdom? But, have patience. Just say these words… and as long as you are not using the drug again, wisdom will follow.
I am not sure if the author of these words actually planned/wrote it the way they are written, but the very order in which these words occur in the prayer is very important. Unless you accept, you cannot ask for courage, and unless you have both the concept of acceptance and courage, you cannot have wisdom.
Life becomes simple. You no longer fight. The weight on your shoulder is lifted. To me, this prayer should be part of every text book everywhere. There is no religious undertone here, no ambiguity and no preferences. Just words and just thoughts.
And, if you are interested, here is the rest of it:
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
I have started saying this prayer in all walks of my life… the first part of it. Sure, it does not solve the problems or issues, but it lifts the weight from them. I feel liberated. I do not care about what will happen in future, but I give my best shot in tackling the problem. This is where I have really started to understand what Bhagvad Geeta says… about doing one’s work without thinking about the results.
The second part of the prayer, I say it whenever I am at peace, content or happy. I don’t know why or how, but I can feel the smile on my face (though I have not checked myself in mirror).