At one time, the Serenity Prayer seemed terribly trite. I’d mumble along in meetings, my sweaty arms wrapped around two strangers’ waists, my eyes on the ground as I pictured the words of the prayer embroidered in pink lettering and framed on the wall of an old woman’s dust-filled house. No longer.
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.
This morning, I’ve been ruminating on the first part of the prayer, because I have a problem with control. A central problem of addiction, according to Bill (co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous) is self-centeredness, something he described as “self-will run riot.” Addicts attempt to play God, both by controlling the actions of others and by self-medicating with mind-altering drugs to control thoughts. It doesn’t work. Obviously. And this seeking absolute control leads to misery, which in turns leads to using, which in turn leads to more misery, and the cycle gets worse – until the addict is dead, jailed or institutionalized. Good times.
I cannot influence outside forces. I cannot change the actions of others. I can, however, recognize my powerlessness and control my thoughts in relation to external events. The most unhappy I am is when I am actively attempting to control things that are beyond my control (and really, what can I control? My thoughts. That’s it.) Pain is inevitable; misery is not. While people will hurt me and events will sting, when I let go, I can find that elusive serenity and better live that dynamic balance between acceptance and change.