by Sandra Lee Schubert
This is a wild world we live in. There is never a quiet moment. There is political unrest, economic downturns, famine, genocide, bombings all stirring things up. Just when you settle down with a nice cup of coffee something happens, the upstairs neighbors begin to
fight, the phone rings, you hear something on the TV that aggravates you.
Twenty eight years ago when my mother died I could accept her death. She had suffered terribly with a chronic illness. She had lost a leg and after six months in the hospital both her mind and body had grown weak. My sister and I were also
tired and emotionally wrenched. I would have gladly accepted her full recovery. But I could not accept her continued suffering.
That was twenty eight years ago. Now I am not so accepting. The memory of her suffering has eased but what remains is the reality that I did not have a mother when I really needed one. And, I can’t accept that she missed out on whole lot of living that
she deserved to have.
There are other things that are absolutely unacceptable to me; negative politics, poverty, world hunger the abuse of anyone, racism. I cannot accept that these can happen in a world such as ours with so much opportunity. Wow, it makes me so angry.
“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. . .”
Most people know some form of the Serenity Prayer either through Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or just because of its widespread popularity. Most people don’t know that Reinhold Niebuhr, credited for writing the prayer in its longer form, was a prominent
leader of the militant faction of the Socialist Party of America during the 1930s. He promoted adoption of the United front agenda of the Communist Party USA, a position in sharp contrast to ideas later in his career. He would write later concerning the need for
a form of democracy that would empower people and rid the world of the human sin of lording power over others.
Niebuhr was an activist and advocate taking on roles that some now might consider shocking, but nonetheless he was not accepting of the status quo and his writings have become an inspiration for many years after his death.
Acceptance is tinged with the idea of surrender. I accept. It sounds a bit like surrender. I give up.
Dr Paul O wrote about acceptance on page 449 of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. "And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation -- some fact of my life --
unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. . .”
Whether I like it or not my mother is gone. I can accept the reality of it and continue on. I can also acknowledge that there is real loss, grief and regret that go along with her death. It does not change the details of her passing. There is nothing I
can do about it.
What to do?
The Serenity Prayer is a good guide to follow. You don’t have to be religious or spiritual either. Let’s break it down this way;
Accept the things I cannot change: Someone dies. A hurricane takes your family home. A relationship ends. You may wish for things to be different. There are “if only” scenarios you may play in you head. If only she didn’t smoke. If only we had
moved last year. If only he would love me. If only. There are things sheer will alone cannot change. I would wish with all my heart for my mother to be alive. It doesn’t happen. Once you accept that something is unchangeable. Then you can take constructive action to
Courage to change the things I can: What in you life can be changed? “If only I were thinner”, you lament. Well. Barring a physical reason most of us can lose weight with a bit of determination and effort. It may mean giving up a favorite food, walking instead of
sitting. Set a simple goal and go for it. A relationship may be over and there is nothing to do about it. Take some time off. Spend time developing your interests, following dreams you may have put aside while in relationship. With a therapist evaluate the things that went
wrong and what went right during your relationship. Make new choices about future relationships and take the first step and begin dating again.
Give me wisdom to know the difference: When emotions are in a whirl it may be hard to figure out what to do. Take a breather. Again, give yourself time. Quiet walks, reading, or writing in your journal are opportunities to clear the mind and sort your emotions.
Create a list defining what you can change or not in any situation. If you are stressed about money- make a list outlining your expenses. You can’t control the global economic market. But you can control your finances. See where you can cut back. Eat in more often. Get
fewer haircuts. Get a part-time job. Do volunteer work. Take constructive actions that put you in control.
You can’t control everything in you life. There are things that are unacceptable. Less then ideal living conditions, hungry children, and a declining environment might be unacceptable to you. Worthy causes allow you to take some actions
towards fixing a greater problem. Maybe you can’t change the whole world but you can take small constructive steps to make good changes.
Acceptance is surrender. But it is not defeat. You surrender to a fight bigger then you are. Death chooses its own time. You surrender and let someone pick up the staff and lead the way. You accept what you can’t do. Do the
things that you can. And know it is you that has control over how you will react to your life. Accept it, the power is yours.
© Copyright 2008 Sandra Lee Schubert. All Rights
Sandra Lee Schubert Sandra Lee Schubert is an interfaith minister and author of the on-line course, Writing for Life: Creating a Story of Your Own (www.selfhealingexpressions.com). She is co-facilitator of the Wild Angels Poets and Writers Group at the historic Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in NYC. A poet and writer, she helps people create peace through creative endeavors. Visit her at
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