Why Bother To Accept?
“God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”
These are the first few lines of the serenity prayer adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous. It is also claimed that Reinhold Niebuhr, a theologian, originally penned this prayer in the 1930s or 1940s. These words, I believe, address the challenge we face everyday of our life to deepen our awareness of what we can or cannot do.
Acknowledging our Reality
Accepting our reality, whether a personal or national crisis, is not the same as putting our stamp of approval on it. Though I don’t like what the headlines in the newspaper say and neither do I like listening to the controversial issues discussed on the radio and television, I cannot deny that there is a lot of bad news out there. Acknowledging that problems beyond my control do exist in this world does not mean I approve of them. It just means I recognize that a whole host of dilemmas exist.
As a result of realizing my own hardships and pain or reconciling myself to the tragedies in the world in which I live, I am faced with a variety of choices. Do I feel dismay, hopelessness and futility? Do I try to ignore or deny the crises? Is there any courage I could muster up in the midst of my own discomfort and feel empathy for others? What if I were determined to face the music instead of hiding my head in the sand?
Big problems make a person feel small and powerless. Indeed, at times we are helpless. We cannot change someone, let alone our own circumstances. But, determining what we might be able to change, that is key.
Just this morning, I greeted an acquaintance outside the local health club. I recalled the last time we’d seen each other, a few months prior. Back then, she was in the midst of a family crisis and looking for a solution. I listened as she brought me up to date on the present circumstances. Through her tears, she told me that nothing had changed, but she still had hopes that something would.
Though I could not offer her a quick fix or take her pain away, I gave her my undivided attention and listened. I validated her situation and before we left each other’s company, I embraced her. Did this solve anything? Nope. But, she had the courage to acknowledge her pain, and I had the courage to receive it.
Why bother to accept the things we cannot change? When we do, we find the courage to accept what we can and understand that we don’t have the power to change everything.