Over 10 years ago, I taped a prayer onto my kitchen cupboard where I would see it often. It was an extremely challenging time in my personal and family life. I felt anxious, stressed, burdened and grieved. I needed the daily (sometimes hourly) reminder that not everything was mine to worry about or control.
Perhaps you have heard of the Serenity Prayer. It is a prayer whose origins go far back into history. The first part of the prayer is used in many recovery groups. One version of the prayer was written by Reinhold Niebuhr.
“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 hardship 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. Amen.” - REINHOLD NIEBUHR
Just the other day I was reflecting on the prayer, and I realized why it is so helpful. There are aspects of life that we cannot change or control. When we face the stressors of our daily lives, experience grief, or watch a loved one struggle with addiction we can get caught up in owning what is not ours to own.
Victor Frankl is a well-known theorist who created Logotherapy. He developed this theory from his time in a Nazi concentration camp where he lost his entire family. Frankl’s theory is about finding meaning and purpose in life even in the midst of extreme suffering. He declared that even in the midst of hardship, humans can always choose their attitude.
This sounds very similar to my personal work from a decade ago and my current work with clients who are struggling. We can feel overwhelmed when we take on too much or think everything is within our circle of control. It can be helpful to sit down, and clearly identify- “what do I really have control over”? Sometimes I help clients write out specifically what is outside and within their control. This process can assist clients in letting go and help them focus on aspects of life they can change.
If you are struggling with the need to control, worrying, or feeling overly-responsilble....I hope this has been helpful. As I journey with clients and manage my own worries, I share in reciting the prayer many before me have prayed...
“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.”
Sara Hoekstra | MA, LLPC