You may have heard the popular Prayer of Serenity:
God grant me the courage to change the things that I can,
The serenity to accept the things that I cannot,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Here we will be expounding on it.
Often, due to past experiences, people can have a tendency to feel powerless and hopeless, feeling that there is nothing they can do about a situation, when in fact they may be able to at least attempt to effect a desired change. Certainly, when one doesn’t try, the chance of success is zero. When one tries, success still may not be achieved, but at least some positive change may be possible. For example, if we’re talking about a spouse’s behaviour, whereas it is true that anybody else’s behaviour is beyond our control, that does not mean that we cannot possible have any influence on it. By communicating calmly and effectively about your feelings and needs and having healthy boundaries (rather than remaining silent and resentful or blowing up), you are most likely to get positive change. Or if you want to ask a girl out or get into a field of studies, it won’t happen if you don’t go for it. Having felt powerless in the past does not mean that you are weak or incapable. Empowerment is feeling the truth in the present that you are important, capable, strong, and determined to do your best in a situation that matters to you.
There are other things, however, that we truly cannot change and are a fact that is entirely beyond our control. This includes many things such as the weather,having broken your leg, missed the bus, being diagnosed with cancer and so forth. We can never fight against reality and win. Reality will win 100% of the time. What is is. Obviously, minor things are easier to accept than major things. Keep in mind that accepting something does not mean liking it or condoning it. It simply means acknowledging that that is the way it is, and that you cannot change it, therefore you choose to not fight the losing battle, but instead choose to have the peace of accepting it. You can still be wishing it was different. All you’re really doing is giving up the losing battle. Fighting it only robs you of your peace, and can delay moving on to looking at how to best handle the situation. For example, once a person has accepted being out of a job, he can turn his attention to once again earning an income or pursuing wrongful dismissal, or whatever. The more major the loss, the longer the process can be to reach acceptance. The sooner a person is able to accept a situation, the better off they are, for the peace that it brings them, as well as the ability to move on and focus on how to best constructively take any action. For example, one can accept a diagnosis they wish they didn’t have, and then go ahead with treating it as effectively as possible. One can make a conscious decision to accept something, knowing it is beyond their control, and wishing the peace that acceptance brings. It is much easier to accept things when one does not take things personally. For example, if one does not feel like a victim or “cursed”, and realizes that he is worthy and that bad things happen to everybody, acceptance is easier. Also, if one realizes that he lost his job because of the economic climate, and not because he was unappreciated, not good enough, or hated, acceptance is much easier. Like forgiveness, acceptance isn’t necessarily an all or none phenomenon; people can struggle with fluctuating levels of it, and may need to keep choosing acceptance repeatedly.
So when you’re faced with a situation that isn’t something that has already occurred, don’t assume there is nothing you can do, but wonder if you might be able to effect some change even if there is no guaranteed success. Invite yourself into a state of empowerment and handle the situation from there. If, on the other hand, something is a reality that cannot be changed, invite yourself into acceptance as soon as you are able, as you will appreciate the peace that comes with it.