Article By Jasmine
The quality or state of being serene
1 a: clear and free of storms or unpleasant change b: shining bright and steady
2: marked by or suggestive of utter calm and unruffled repose or quietude
God, grant me the Serenity
to accept the things I cannot change…
Courage to change the things I can
and the Wisdom to know the difference.
Reinhold Niebuhr (American theologian, 1892-1971)
Pagan Serenity Prayer
God & Goddess grant me:
The power of water, to accept with ease & grace what I cannot change
The power of fire, for the energy & courage to change the things I can.
The power of Air, for the ability to know the difference.
And the power of Earth, for the strength to continue my path.
Despite years of research by numerous individual, the exact origin of the prayer is veiled in time and mystery. Every time a researcher appears to uncover the conclusive source, another one crops up to confound the claim. The impact in the meaning of, with due respect to the real author, is undeniable.
Of all the tools I have been blessed to add to my toolbox for maintenance of the Soul, one of my most treasured is, modest in first appearance, one of my most useful. These simple 4 or 5 lines of a poem pack a wallop of an impact, if one chooses to see and feel past the initial simplicity.
I have found myself at times, in extreme states, sitting firmly upon a horse that is securely bolted to the floor of a complex merry-go-round of life, with the full gamut of possible emotions whirring inside and about me, frantically grasping for anything solid to help me get off the dizzying contraption. These seemingly basic lines have proved themselves, time and again, something that I could grab a hold of.
It gives us permission to ask…in the chaos of human emotion, to find the Serenity, a moment of calm, to understand the things that we have no power to change. It allows us to ask for the Courage to see and make changes to the things we are capable of changing. Most importantly, we can ask for the Wisdom to understand the difference between what we CAN change and what we CAN’T change. Admittedly, during times of calm and control, this might seem an elementary feat. Anyone having experienced times of feeling so out of control will know quite differently.
In the middle of emotional Chaos, it is such a relief to discover the ability to recognize and screen out the crap, shove it aside, to focus on the real issues at hand. I liken this result of grabbing a firm hold of these words to…finding yourself blasting around a chaotic tornado… looking down into the calm of the center and wanting so badly to plant your backside firmly on the bottom, longing for merely a short break, to look up and out, but not knowing how to get there.
Some basic knowledge of Human Nature 101 is most helpful at this point. The mind can be a wicked culprit for allowing the merry-go-round to persist. Over analyzing situations to the point of “if I had/had not done this” or “if he/she had not or had done this” and the what if’s, in second guessing different outcomes, won’t ever change what actually came about. However, playing things over and over again in the mind is one of the games it can play on us. Another player in this is the heart. Emotions of jealously, anger, pain, hurt, fear, love, etc create a chaotic whirlpool as to find oneself lost in confusion to the degree of feeling out of control.
The Serenity Prayer invites your Soul into the equation. By, with respect to your well being, it allows you to set aside you’re thinking mind, you’re feeling heart and lets you focus on the facts at hand and what you can and cannot do about your situation. In asking for peace of mind to recognize the answers to your questions, your able to clear out the irrational thinking of the past, being unchangeable anyway, and the emotions of the heart coloring your perception of how to proceed to attain an acceptable sense of sanity, and allowing yourself to continue down your life’s path, instead of spinning helplessly out of control.
Having said all this…and especially at my most serious moments of crying out for help…I have found peaceful respite, some breathing space, to get my feet more firmly planted on the ground. It’s in times of extreme emotion and crying out to the universal energies for help, that we find our intentions the truest. It’s with True Intentions our requests for help are most heard. With our honest efforts to occupy the sense of Serenity for even the shortest time, we can most loudly hear the answers to our heartfelt questions.
One of my favorite analogies is, if you’re going to win the lottery you have to make the effort to go out and buy a ticket. If we want to reap the benefits the Universal Energies, they so lovingly want to bestow upon us…we have to make the proper efforts to allow them the open channel for us to receive. Just as in winning a big lotto jackpot…we must allow our Souls the opportunity to reap the benefits they so deserve.
This poem has, over time, never ceased to amaze me. No matter how simple or complex my situation…the words seem to change, sometimes ever so slightly, to accommodate my understanding of a particular situation. For as many years as I have known it…there are times it seemed to pop right up into my mind…and other times I had to go dig it up just to be sure. As simple as 4 or 5 lines can appear, this is a true testament to the depth of meaning it can take on for those in need.
The Universal Energies have blessed us with some wonderful tools. It’s with our choice in free will we are able to accept the use of them. This is but one of the many I have been thankful to have experienced and one I will never discard.
UPDATE: Quite a while after this article was written and while doing some research for a different subject, I came across the Serenity Prayer with credit given to Reinhold Niebuhr. I have included a short biography from http://who2.com/reinholdniebuhr.html and a few of his quotes.
Name at birth: Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr
During his lifetime, Reinhold Niebuhr was the best-known Christian intellectual in the United States. Ordained as a minister in the German Evangelical Synod of North America in 1913, Neibuhr pastored a middle-class congregation in Detroit for 13 years. In 1928 he began a career-long association with New York’s Union Theological Seminary, serving as professor of Christian ethics (1928-60) and dean (1950-60). Niebuhr neither created nor defended a particular belief system as much as he worked to apply Christian morals to contemporary political and social problems. His theological stance has been described as “Christian realism,” and most of his work was devoted to reconciling the concept of perfect love with a world in constant violent conflict. A prolific writer and a popular, engaging lecturer, Niebuhr became a national celebrity and influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. and policy makers in the administration of President John Kennedy. His books include Does Civilization Need Religion? (1927), The Nature and Destiny of Man (2 volumes, 1941-43) and Faith and History (1949). He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964.
Niebuhr is credited with authoring what has been called the Serenity Prayer, a form of which is used by Alcoholics Anonymous. One version of it goes like this:
God give me the serenity to accept things which cannot be changed; give me courage to change things which must be changed; and the wisdom to distinguish one from the other.
Extra credit: His brother, Helmut Richard Niebuhr, was also a well-known theologian and clergyman… In his early years Reinhold Niebuhr was an active socialist, but he advocated early intervention against Adolf Hitler in World War II, and by the end of the war had moved away from socialism to condemn totalitarian communism.
“Original sin is that thing about man which makes him capable of conceiving of his own perfection and incapable of achieving it”
“Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love.”
“If we can find God only as he is revealed in nature we have no moral God”