Thoughts on the serenity prayer

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 1, 2024, 5:30 PM | comments: 0

If you've gone to an AA meeting, or seen one in countless movies and TV shows, you're familiar with 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.

It varies a bit, but the intent is always the same. There's only so much we can do, in every aspect of life. But there's also a delineation to be made between the truly random things, and the things that we might be able to influence. I can't do anything about a natural disaster, or someone getting cancer. But I feel like I can influence things at work, play a tiny role in politics and hopefully have some positive influence on my kid. All of those are not necessarily in my control, but I feel like I can change them to some degree.

And that's where the wisdom part comes in. My naivety and optimism often convinces me that anything is possible. I ignore limitations, sometimes. Pursuing things that you can't change has an obvious result, and you run into that enough, it starts to feel pretty bad.

I think that might be where my nagging anxiety comes from. I'm typing my finite number of keystrokes on things that I can't realistically influence. In some cases, like work, I try to rationalize that good leadership can overcome limitation, and failure only means I'm not a good leader. Sometimes with parenting, I feel like a shitty dad when I lead my horse, er, kid to water and he won't drink. And I have no idea what I think social media posts will do toward any outcome at all. Yet I labor over those precious, limited keystrokes.

The serenity prayer feels like a license for apathy, and I feel like apathy is the disease that breaks humanity. If everyone was just marginally more empathetic toward others, the world would be measurably better. Perhaps I'm missing the point. Maybe it isn't apathy as much as it is a conscious resistance to empathy. It's like empathy is perceived as a weakness.

If it seems like I write about a tired mind a lot lately, it's because I have a tired mind.


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