I must admit that for me all three of these seem to be in rather short supply.
They are found in the familiar Serenity Prayer.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Serenity is a form of peace, a sense of calm and contentment in the midst of chaos. I find this nigh impossible. It seems that change is all around me except in the places where I most covet change, whether that be in myself, in others, or in the world.
I must admit that I am not very good at accepting that which I cannot change. Or even discerning what the unchangeable may be. Too often I have banged my head against an unyielding wall in the hopes that the wall will somehow give way before my hard head. If one door opens when another door closes, why do I insist on trying to walk through the closed door?
And as for courage. I am tenacious to a fault, but I do not know if tenacity is the same as courage. It is far easier to spend time fighting those things that I cannot change rather than striding forth to face those things that I can change. It is similar I think to loving someone from afar who you know you have no chance of having a relationship with rather than building a real relationship with a person close to you who you know deep down inside is the one for you. The one in the distance is always beautiful and can do no wrong. The closest one is revealed in all of their warts and worries. But which one is more real? Which relationship takes more courage to be a part of?
Ah, and wisdom, so chronically underrated in this day and age. We are so knowledge-driven that somehow we think that knowledge is synonymous with wisdom. If knowledge is power then wisdom is the engine that allows that power to be actualized in the best way.
Wisdom is the key to serenity and courage. It is the only way to discern between what I should put my energy toward and what I should be at peace about. So how do I develop this wisdom? Can I develop it? Is it a gift? And if so where does it come from?
Some clues (from James 1): The trials I face create a strength in me to persevere. If I continue to persevere in the midst of whatever occurs then I become mature and lack nothing. But if I lack wisdom all I have to do is ask and it will be given to me.
You see the thing that I forget so often is the first word in the Serenity Prayer. That word or person is God. Too often I rely on my own understanding to determine whether something can be changed or not. I forget to ask for the wisdom to know the difference.
So I am to persevere but not in my own strength can I do so. It is as simple and as difficult as taking the time to stop in the midst of my head banging and simply ask for what I lack. If it is wisdom and I do not make the request, then I will continue to spin my wheels fighting those thing that are simply a waste of my time. As I result, I am unavailable to fight to change those things that I am called to change.
I have not because I ask not. And I, like all of us, have only a limited amount of time to affect real change.
Wisdom is crying out in the streets.
Will I listen?
(Author’s Note: The midweek essay is a regular feature every Wednesday. More information can be found on the publication schedule page).