“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”
In pointing us to acceptance, the Serenity Prayer directs us to the heart of life.
In the book “Learning the Virtues: That Lead You to God,” author Father Romano Guardini states why this is true:
“What is the presupposition for all moral effort if it is to be effective, to change what is amiss, to strengthen what is feeble, and to balance what is uneven? … It is acceptance of what is, the acceptance of reality, your own and that of the people around you and of the time in which you live.”
Acceptance starts with accepting me.
I frequently meet people who dwell more on their negative defects and less on their positive gifts. I remember a worried mother whose daughter felt she was too short and unattractive. An objective eye would find her very attractive.
To practice acceptance, we must first realize we can’t pick and choose among the foundations of our existence but must accept the whole. The beauty of acceptance is that once we concede who we are, freedom follows.
No longer are we weighed down with pseudo expectations that are unrealistic and choking us with unnecessary anxiety.
Acceptance also prompts us to take a clearsighted look at the gifts with which we are blessed. Clearsightedness is one of the qualities of prudence and when practiced, it widens our vision and ability to weed out unrealistic allusions from realism.
No doubt many of us today are finding it difficult to accept our present times. Divisions, violence, dishonesty, corruption and false denials are everywhere.
Here the Serenity Prayer reminds us to possess the courage to change the things we can, encouraging us to take a good look at what we can control and to act on it rather than grumble and do nothing.
In pointing to courage, we are being prompted to look at our heart’s outlook. It reveals our disposition and whether we are standing strong in taking action or being lethargic and inert.
Most of all, the Serenity Prayer points us to God and God’s power to strengthen us in these challenging times.
Father Hemrick is the director of the National Institute for the Renewal of the Priesthood.