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 authors daughter. Despite it being composed in wartime its relevance in todays society is no less significant, but what was stunning to me when I discovered the entire prayer, that actually to me, this part that has been left out has even greater relevance and key components of what comes next in ones 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, its 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 overwhelm I was experiencing and stay present in my family and life again. It helped me to each week 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.
Accepting hardships is vital to get through the rebuild stage. People naively think ‘just STOP!’ when they see a person out of control and then your life will be fine. This just isn’t the case at all. Abstaining is only part of the problem. For me I had no clue what was going on with me and why I was self destructing. I thought that because I was enduring hardships in my life that I was on the wrong path. This can be a common misconception, with many having ‘If it is too hard, walk away’ mentality. No one has an easy stress free path through this world and so why do we feel so isolated when we are in the thick of it.
It was in the months and indeed years that followed my recovery that I have continued and will continue to face challenges as this is normal life. In the early days they helped me to see how far I had come in new understanding of who I was coming to know as Kate for the first time. What made her tick, what made her angry, sad, proud, scared, stressed, hurt and hopeful.
This weekly reflection fine tuned into daily practice and I knew if I recognised something wasn’t sitting well with me I had to give it the time it deserved to understand what I needed to know further about myself or others that would help it make sense in my life and that brought peace.
I find the next part to the prayer interesting but I believe he is speaking to contentment. To have peace and gratitude for what you have, even in and through the storms of life is a lesson I definitely learnt the hard way. While you focus on the things that are going wrong you rob yourself of the joys of the things you are doing right. The list I had to write for my councillor of 10 things I liked about myself helped me to readjust the mental scales in my head, so that any one of those 10 positive attributes were way more important and valuable than the one weakness on the other side of the scales.
Accepting the world and not being envious of another persons anything, despite your circumstances is a powerful position and it helps you to relax and be at peace to figure out your unique passion and purpose and the way in which you can engage with it. Mans obsession to control things is exhausting, just rest and take time to know yourself and then you become more in tuned to be able to help others.
This last part is all about having faith. Now I know what I believe and my faith makes complete and total sense to me in my life and I don’t feel it is my place nor is it others to tell another soul what they should believe. To me faith doesn’t have to mean religion. It is a deeply personal view point that is for no other to attack or tear down. The value in his statement is that we as a society have moved so far away from beliefs of any kind and therefore ignored a vital part of being human our soul and spirit and heart have been devalued and malnourished. The denial of this core need is in my view proving to be a contributing element to the breakdown of society.
The one thing I know for sure is that we will all pass away and I would rather live my life positively affecting as many people as possible, happy with my humanness, grateful for the gifts I have been given of the amazing people I am blessed to walk with, at peace with my past and the learning that it held.