To Know Serenity | Part One

Many of us who have walked the path of struggle or otherwise, would know of the Serenity Prayer written by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892 -1971). However, despite its common place, what a lot of people don’t know is that two thirds of the prayer has been left out or removed.

‘God, grant me the Serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference’

This is the version we all know and accept and I found it amazing to realise it was written to

“help people address the inconsolable pain, loss and guilt that war inflicts on the communities that wage it”

This is a quote by Elisabeth Sifton the author’s daughter. Despite it being composed in wartime its relevance in today’s society is no less significant. What was stunning to me was the parts of the prayer that was left out. It resonated with me as I believe it has even greater relevance and key components of what comes next in one’s recovery.

‘Living one day at a time;
Accepting hardships as
the pathway to peace.
Taking as he did, this
World as it is and 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’

Remembering that this was just a private prayer that he thought would bring comfort to people he could see in real pain, it’s amazing the insight and wisdom that he delivers in just a few words.

Taking each day at a time, he reminds people to stay in the now and present, not wallowing in the past or anxious about the future that is promised to no one. When I joined the SMART recovery group (Self Management And Recovery Training), we were allowed to talk about the past week for a minute or two at the beginning of the meeting and then a minute or two about the coming 7 at the checkout of the meeting. The bulk of the time we spent talking about things that had caught us off guard and how we worked through them.

This training really helped me to let go of the overwhelm I was experiencing and stay present in my family and life again. It helped me to have the ability to reflect on the difficulties I had faced in that week and realise that I had used other problem solving skills to get through them rather than slipping back into overwhelm and bad habits. It also helped me to keep clear in my head what my real responsibilities were, not ones I had imagined or ones that were unrealistic. Small achievable shifts, day by day, restoring my confidence in my abilities once more and rebuilding my self esteem. My life became manageable again and with each challenge I overcame, even if no one else noticed, those were the wins I then began to accumulate.


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