Serene view of Half Dome from our raft on the Merced River
There are events in life that will challenge your serenity. These usually turn out to be things that are “Beyond Your Control“. I try to keep a large reservoir of serenity stored up for just this type of event.  I’ve faced situations in my life where all my serenity was used up.  Where one bad event after another happened! When you find yourself in this situation you start to question everything, especially yourself!  So these days I keep a very large store of serenity inside of me just in case.

You ask, “How can you store up serenity?”

Funny you should ask…

I think we store up serenity when we make good decisions, let go of things when we have no control of them, fight for what is right, work hard, and love completely.  I was first exposed to the Serenity Prayer when I was a young boy.  It hung from a wall on my Grandma’s kitchen.  Even though my Grandma’s house is no longer there, the memories are.  I can walk through that kitchen in my memories and see the framed prayer hanging right by the stove.  I just wish I could also have some of that terrific potato soup I’m smelling…  The Serenity Prayer doesn’t provide all the answers, but it does point out three important things related to serenity:  acceptance, courage, and wisdom.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

This week I was faced with an event that challenged my serenity.  I had been living with something for the last couple years that I was certain I could change as long as I had the courage to take action.  When the time came to take action I approached my task with caution, asking all the right questions of all the right people.  I did my own research and was certain, in fact I still am, that I was fighting for what was right.  Unfortunately, the control I felt was an illusion.  Whether the change I sought was right or wrong did not matter; only the decision of someone I could not control mattered.  They approached the decision in a way that I would not have and in a way I could not have foreseen.   They seemed unsure of their decision and talked about how they felt that it could go either way, but they decided against me.  Finally they wavered one more time in their decision, made it temporary, giving me one more chance to influence their decision.  While this sounds like a situation that still holds some hope, and maybe it does, there is nothing worse for serenity than a situation like this!  Initially I thought I had the wisdom to know the difference between something I could change and something I could not.  I demonstrated the courage to seek the change.  Then circumstances made me question my original wisdom, and to top it off I was back to step one, decide whether this was something I could change or not!

Sound familiar?  This cycle repeats itself over and over again in our lives.   What I decided to do in this one case doesn’t really matter.  I didn’t give details of the situation intentionally.  What matters is that I realized that I had a choice to make.  When you don’t realize that you’ve been given a choice, you don’t think about your next action, and you miss a chance to at least try to make a good choice.   Even when you do realize you have a choice, approaching this choice with an open mind will be tough.  It is likely that you still feel like the change was something you controlled.  It’s just that the other person has made a mistake.  You may also feel that it’s up to you to correct that mistake.  What you may not be willing to face is that maybe you made the mistake, even if the only mistake you made was thinking you had some measure of control over this situation.   This is exactly the time to remember the Serenity Prayer.  Read it.  Think about it.  Do you have control?  What level of control?  At this point you must have major doubts about having any control at all!  Be courageous, don’t let your doubts overwhelm your wisdom.   Finally dig into that reservoir of serenity.  It will help clear your mind.  It will allow you to consider the possibility that you may not be able to change this thing, that acceptance may be the best course of action.  You may still make the wrong decision, we are all imperfect after all, but at least you are in the right state of mind to make an open-minded decision.

When things go right, be sure to tuck the serenity that brings away. That little feeling of “everything is right in the world” may come in handy sooner than you think! When things go wrong, remember all the things that are right in the world before taking action. It won’t guarantee anything, but it might improve your chances of making good choices.

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