Letting Go…Change

Relinquishing What I Cannot Change

Sue Reeve

     In the 1930’s or 40’s, a Christian theologian wrote a powerful prayer. The first part is especially well known, and has become a life-line to millions of people endeavoring to choose a better way to journey through life.

The Serenity Prayer

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.

Living one day at a time:

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life and

Supremely happy with Him forever in the next.


~Reinhold Niebuhr http://www.cptryon.org/prayer/special/serenity

     As I was thinking about the words in this prayer several years ago, I drew three columns on a note pad. I named the first column I Cannot Change. The second column was I Can Change, and on the top of the third column, I added a row of ??????.

     That day, The Serenity Prayer—words recited by many at the conclusion of their 12-step groups—became for me a very practical, personal and powerful prayer. Since then, I’ve categorized much of my life into these three columns—sometimes written, but often mentally. The very simple prayer tool I developed follows below.

  • The first column helps me identify that which I have no power to change. For starters, I realized I would do well to remember I cannot change:
    • Any other person.
    • Any of my past failures—or successes.
    • My family of origin.
    • Certain genetic factors.
  • The second column identifies what I can change. For example, I can…
    • Change a particular behavior to improve physical wellness.
    • Take some action that will increase knowledge or skill.
    • Become more deliberate about building or improving an interpersonal relationship.
    • Seek ways to grow in my faith journey.
  • The third column often represents a dream requiring time to develop. I’ve called this column my “I Don’t Have a Clue” or “I Don’t Know Yet” column. Recently, I’ve renamed this third column: Surprise Me, God!

     As I considered the Serenity Prayer columns, I began asking this question: “Okay, just how much energy am I giving to things listed in the I Cannot Change column?” I realized, at times most of my emotional or spiritual energy was being spent on a person, event or circumstance over which I have absolutely no control.

     Rather than dwelling on what I cannot change, I can choose to redirect time and energy to accomplish something in the I Can Change column. This results in feelings of success rather than failure. Redistribution of my energy empowers me to take even more live-giving steps.

     Greater energy and creativity enable me to focus on Column 3. When that long awaited God-Surprise-Me Gift arrives, I’m ready to recognize and receive it.

     I’m so aware that even though I’ve made a lot of progress, I haven’t mastered the Serenity Prayer discipline. My journey still has segments of three steps forward and two steps back—sometimes even two and a half steps back! But, I know the God of Serenity will always be loving, gracious and patient with me as I learn the joy of

Living one day at a time:

Enjoying one moment at a time;

     May the God of peace be with you all…(Romans 15:33)


2 thoughts on “Letting Go…Change

  1. Absolutely love this. Thanks. The Serenity Prayer means a lot to me, along with One Day at a Time. I am thankful, to God, as well, for all of this and more. S

  2. I love this prayer. Have journals and plaques with it all over my house I made a copy of your blog and read this at my 12 step group. (Nar-Anon, for friends and families of addicts) What a blessing. Thank you.

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