For many, 2017 was a year filled with anxiety. Some of it was due to situations over which we had
some power, but so much of what we worried about was beyond our control. Often I find myself
recommending the “Serenity Prayer” to my patients; in my medical practice I use it as a clinical tool.
In one popular, simple, and brief rendition, it goes like this:
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.
Just where did these well known and meaningful words come from? The Serenity Prayer was written
by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. It was first used in his sermons. The prayer spread
throughout church groups, and was adopted and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1941.
Note some of the important messages you may discover in this prayer:
Acceptance is neither laziness nor failure. Devoting attention to matters we cannot change uses
up some of the physical, emotional, and mental energy that could be directed towards the
matters we CAN change. Some things need to be accepted the way they are. We haven’t the
power to change them.
It takes courage to change ourselves. It’s a challenge to imagine our lives being different. The
easiest path is to keep going in the same direction. Deeply ingrained habits are often our worst
enemies. By identifying them, we have already won half of the battle. Habits gain power
through repetition, and it takes focus and serious effort to change them.
Hardship is often necessary for change. Sometimes it is indeed the hardships (or obstacles) that
help and even force us to make changes. Next time you face an obstacle, view it not as a
frustration or a failure, but as an opportunity for growth and learning.
The Serenity Prayer is all about serenity, peace, courage, and wisdom. In a world that seems to value
money, possessions, fame, popularity, and acceptance, the goal of attaining serenity is beautiful and
simple. Let’s take a deep breath, close our eyes, and imagine what life would look like with peace and
serenity. Now, let’s find the courage and go and get it.
I wish you a wonderful 2018.
Paging Dr. Frischer: Year End Review 2017
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