The “Serenity Prayer” was first attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, an American theologian, in the early 1930s. In the early 1940’s Alcoholics Anonymous rewrote the “Serenity Prayer” in the form that is familiar today. During World War II the USO (United Services Organization) printed the prayer on cards and gave it out to troops.
Alcoholics Anonymous’ version rewrote the prayer to appeal to a broader audience. It reads:
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.
Recently I was thinking about the prayer and tried my hand at personalizing and strengthening it. I realized I had always felt a sense of indecision with this prayer because of the last line. While I liked it opening up my mind to consider that perhaps I might have been trying to change things that I had no business changing, or perhaps had not worked on my own needed changes, I was still left with the feeling of uncertainty. Would I be able to accept things I could not change? Would I have enough knowledge or strength to change what I could? In short, the prayer leaves the hearer in an open state, which I believe was Niebuhr’s intent. In my youth I struggled a lot with having the wisdom to know the difference. As I’ve grown in maturity and have developed healthier boundaries, I have a much clearer sense of what’s mine and what is someone else’s. So for me, today, I want a more declarative prayer that will energetically reinforce each person’s own self-determination and self-responsibility. I do believe over the years that Niebuhr’s prayer probably helped me open to healthier boundaries and relationships. I believe my version adds a stronger intention.
Here is my revision of the original.
God, grant me the serenity to accept my own and others’ realities,
Courage to change what is mine to change,
Wisdom, love and wholeness.
I believe that in order to maintain our own energies, it’s vital that we’re not focusing on what really belongs to someone else. We should always focus on what is in our “circle of control”. We can only change ourselves, not others. The ‘wisdom to know the difference’ I think is assumed in the revised version by the acceptance of our own and others’ realities. When we have our own identity and have clear personal boundaries, there is clarity about what is ours. Beyond discerning between others’ and our own responsibilities, what intuitively came to me was the primacy of love and the blessing of wholeness. I suppose that is because these are both supportive of healthy relationships...both with myself and with others.
Feel free to use this alternate version of the Serenity Prayer for your personal use if it helps. Better yet, write your own!