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.

At some point you have probably heard or read what is known as the serenity prayer: “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.” The prayer is associated with Alcoholics Anonymous whose members recite this prayer to help them in recovery and with daily living.

One of the more difficult aspects of the pandemic is the uncertainty. Hearing this last week that the start of in-person learning has been postponed was disheartening. The delay is made more difficult by the uncertainty of when can we expect to return to more normal daily living. Dr. Keith Humphreys, Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University, notes that in studies of pain, pain is thought of as more unbearable if people don’t know when it will end. He explains, “We are seeing that dynamic in this epidemic: not knowing when relief will come makes everything worse.” This is where the serenity prayer can help.

There are three parts to the serenity prayer. The first part is asking for the ability to accept that which I cannot change. Acceptance is not approval or giving in or giving up. It is acknowledging that there are things we cannot control and emotionally releasing ourselves of that disappointment and frustration. The second part challenges us to find the things we do have control over and to be brave enough to try and change them. The final part, and the most important, is asking for the wisdom to know which is which.

A few months ago I came across the infographic (click image below). As all the many things I cannot control have continued to make life so uncertain, this infographic was helpful to me. It addresses ideas of how to accept our current situation, but also contains various suggestions of what we can do. I would encourage you to download or save it and put it somewhere you can refer to it often. If you actually take the steps to follow through on doing this, then you can be encouraged that, at least for today, this simple but profound little prayer has been answered.

Written by Karl Steinkamp

Karl Steinkamp is passionate about Dalat International School and training up young people. Karl was a student at Dalat and returned with a degree in education as a student teacher, high school principal, and now Head of School since 2006.
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