How often do you practice serenity?


Today is November 15 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you practice serenity?” Navigating the chaos requires you to practice serenity so that you may accept what you cannot change, change what you can and understand the difference. For those who are putting in the daily grind of translating one dream after another into reality, practicing serenity may be a bit overwhelming at times. It is simply inconceivable for some to accept the reality of a situation, and, therefore, have as their life goal to change it. The nuanced consideration for today’s reflection then, is to know the difference between that which you can change, and that which is unchangeable. Such discernment may take years to learn, but it is an important strategy to use as you navigate the chaos of life.


Another way of reflecting upon today’s question is to recall the yin-yang concept as found in Ancient Chinese philosophy. This concept of dualism describes how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. For example, yang is often associated with action, courage, and assertiveness while yin is frequently related to serenity, openness, and calmness.


We can turn to the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr for his guidance on serenity as he authored The Serenity Prayer in the 1930s. Niebuhr was an American Reformed theologian, ethicist, commentator on politics and public affairs, and professor at Union Theological Seminary for more than 30 years. Niebuhr was one of America's leading public intellectuals for several decades of the 20th century and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964. Church groups and various twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous helped popularize the prayer though often without attribution to Niebuhr. The phrase most often refereed to is:


God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.


The Serenity Prayer appeared in a sermon of Niebuhr's as part of the 1944 A Book of Prayers and Services for the Armed Forces while Niebuhr himself first published it in 1951 in a magazine column. The prayer has appeared in many versions. Reinhold Niebuhr's versions of the prayer were always printed as a single prose sentence; printings that set out the prayer as three lines of verse modify the author's original version. The most well-known form is a late version, as it includes a reference to grace not found before 1951:


God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, Courage to change the things which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. Living one day at a time, Enjoying one moment at a time, Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, Taking, as Jesus did, This sinful world as it is, Not as I would have it, Trusting that You will make all things right, If I surrender to Your will, So that I may be reasonably happy in this life, And supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen


In a March 14, 2017, Psychology Today article, Dr. Jeremy E. Sherman published "The Serenity Prayer and 16 Variations" and listed 16 reflection questions based upon Niebuhr’s work. The first five questions for today’s reflection stem from Sherman’s article.

  • Should I try to change this? (or should I give my energy elsewhere?)

  • Should I join this? (or should I go alone?)

  • Should I stay with this? (or do I step into the unknown?)

  • Should I say this? (or do I risk losing the opportunity to do so if I wait?)

  • Should I be consistent here? (or should I try something new?)

  • How often do you practice serenity?

  • How often do you use courage to change the things you can?

  • How often are you working on the discernment required to understand the difference between what you can and cannot change?