Do You Believe (in The Serenity Prayer)?

Category: Moral Question of the Week, Weekly Columns

The Serenity Prayer as a tattoo

Anyone who has a family member or friend in AA has heard of The Serenity Prayer. You don’t have to be part of AA to either agree with it (or not). It says, “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.” This week’s Moral Question is: Do you believe (in it)? Or do you believe we have more control than the prayer implies?

My goal with these weekly questions is to get YOU to think. Secondarily, my goal is to stimulate a dialogue (on these questions/issues) so please add your comment in the section below. There will be NO judgment (from me) and you are welcome to suggest other questions to be part of this weekly series of posts.

  • Abby Hatch

    I love the Serenity Prayer. My sister is a marriage and family therapist, and she uses this prayer with her clients. After they describe the problem they’re concerned about, she helps them identify 1) aspects they can’t control, 2) things they can, and 3) areas they’re not sure whether they can influence or not.

    Honestly, I think the implication of lack of control just comes from shortening it. We tend to quote only the first part. What if we called it the “Courage Prayer” (or the “Wisdom Prayer”)?

    • Bruce Sallan

      @abbyhatch:disqus – Knowing the difference is the key to so many aspect of life and happiness. Thx for the comment, Abby!

  • jack43

    Screw serenity. I don’t care if I can’t change it, if it needs changing, I’m gonna try and change it. Failure doesn’t scare me, nor does it affect my sense of serenity. Serenity may be even greater for those who fight the unwinnable fight. (And as a Baltimore boy where the Serenity Prayer was discovered in a church, I’m sure I’ll be castigated for saying so. Tough…)

    • Bruce Sallan

      I love you, @jack43:disqus !!!!

  • Guest

    I do believe in the Serenity Prayer. So often, we get frustrated because we can’t change parts of our life that out of our control and we futilely focus our attention there.

    • Bruce Sallan

      THAT is exactly the point of it!

  • Kelly Boyer Sagert

    I do believe in the Serenity Prayer. It’s too easy to focus too much energy on parts of life that we can’t change.

  • Barry Birkett

    Generally, but the biggest advances are made by those who refuse to accept the idea they can’t change something. The flip side is that those people are seldom serene.

    • Bruce Sallan

      #Wisdom @barrybirkett:disqus – thanks for adding it via your comment!

  • Arnie

    I believe in it. I have no control over people places or things. It’s all in gods will.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Don’t you believe you can AT LEAST control HOW you react to life? That is what Viktor Frankl taught me!

  • BrandiJeter

    I do believe in it. i heard it, first as the child of an addict, and later stumbled upon it again in my adult years. I do believe that there are some things that are out of my control, and serenity / peace is the goal in that case.

    • Bruce Sallan

      @BrandiJeter:disqus – I think it’s liberating to KNOW those things we cannot change and to accept it…I will NEVER be a pro golfer…I’ve accepted that!

  • Sharon Ulery Ruggieri

    Let go, let God! Naturally I believe in it. I’m Catholic! But I believed it before I was confirmed in the Church as an adult in 2008. If something’s broke and I try to fix it, and it isn’t fixable, a huge weight is lifted when I realize it’s in God’s control and not mine. Even things that make no sense whatsoever, are somewhat understandable when I get that I’m not supposed to make sense of the un-understandable. Understand? 😉

    • Bruce Sallan

      @sharonuleryruggieri:disqus – we are on the same page, Sharon!

  • Stan Faryna

    A great prayer will begin with repentance, beg forgiveness, give praise-glory-honor to God, request that which God promises to his faithful, and thank Him for giving it to us.

  • SueInge

    Yes, absolutely. Anything that causes continuous struggle causes continuous health challenges (not to mention emotional duress). Therefore, letting go, accepting what is, understanding how and why it happened — and what to do about it — is vital.

    • Bruce Sallan

      There seems to agreement on this one, Sue…thx for commenting!

  • David Weber

    I don’t have any particular problem with the Serenity Prayer. Certainly for someone who either does not believe in God, or a god; or is struggling with belief; or is agnostic about the existence of a divinity; the language of the prayer must be altered (and the material probably not thought of as a “prayer” in the first place) in order to be a guidepost.

    But the key sentiment in the prayer of recognizing what is in one’s control and what may not be in one’s control has value. I think that an important step on the road to maturity is to claim responsibility for more than one may have wished to when younger.

    Personally, I have been happier in life when I began to act as if I had more control rather than less control in routine situations, at least. Also, when I began to think in terms of being resourceful enough to somehow or handle the eventual results of situations I didn’t think I had control over.

    • Bruce Sallan

      @disqus_dU5ulU60s7:disqus – what is so cool about The Serenity Prayer and AA’s idea of a “Higher Power” is that it isn’t God-centric. That “Higher Power” can be within you, can be nature, can be whatever. Regardless, I fully agree that taking responsibility for what we do and can control is actually liberating!

      • David Weber

        The tattoo specifically contains the word God…that was the textual material I was responding to…did the person with the tattoo make a change in the content of the serenity prayer? As far as AA and its variant or follow-on organizations (e.g., Al-Anon) are concerned, isn’t the Higher Power phrase invoked in one of the twelve steps, as opp. to housed in the serenity prayer?

        • Bruce Sallan

          I’m hardly an expert @disqus_dU5ulU60s7:disqus – but I think the fact that they chose to use “Higher Power” vs. “God” is a big deal…

  • Martina McGowan

    I believe that the Serenity Prayer is a tool. It is a method we can use to stop, breath, think and make a conscious rather than an unconscious decision about how to deal with someone or something. When we can touch that wisdom, however we get to it, we can choose a path forward.
    There are precious few things in life we can control or change. We can control in life are what we think (we can almost always alter our perspective ), how we react, and what we choose to do. IMHO. M.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Beautifully stated, @Doc_1:disqus – thanks for adding your wisdom to the dialogue…

  • Ed marencik

    I don’t know why the Our Father is not credited here. This prayer of serentiy has become a mantra and a tool to control the person. You can use any word to do that.. let there be peace in the world and let it begin with me is another prayer… but many large numbers of people who have lost there way fromGod, use this prayer rather then pray theOur Father. If you sat with Our Lord and prayed this prayer He gave us… there is far more healing then the Serenity.