Reverend Mike’s Wayside Pulpit
What Can We Accept and What Can We Change?
Many times, I’ve been struck by the profound simplicity of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer:
O God, give us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed,
the courage to change what can be changed,
and the wisdom to know the one from the other.
This prayer has, since it was first penned, taken many forms and become a touchstone in Twelve Step programs. It is based in the Christian tradition, of course, but also echoes the primary teaching of Buddhism. That is, when we cannot accept life as it is, we cause ourselves to suffer. Most Buddhist practices are methods of accepting (or learning to accept) that which is, thereby alleviating our suffering.
It is sometimes a struggle to let go of those things we want, or those issues we wish would turn out in the way we would like. Life, politics, families — these are systems with many moving parts, of which our own, personal contributions are only one part. The contributions of others can make whatever it is go in a different direction than we might have liked. After we get over our disappointment, can we learn to accept and work with the new reality? Or do we hold onto our broken dreams and suffer? There really isn’t much middle ground on this.
For example, I and many others spoke out vociferously against the Bush-Cheney administration, and campaigned to disallow them a second term. We failed. We all had a choice. After our initial disappointment, we could either accept the outcome, or not. Wallowing in despair for the years of that administration would have helped no one, least of all, ourselves. It is not always so easy to accept that which is, whatever is is. In so many facets of our lives, we have personal desires and plans, and sometimes need to remind ourselves to have the flexibility to accept that plans change, based on the desires of many. I am not the only person with an opinion on who should be (or should have been) president, and have to accept the outcome. Even though it’s Trump...
I say all this now because there is so much bad news and reports of this or that investigation coming out of Washington, and I frequently hear congregants discuss their alarm over it all.All of which, we can each personally do little about, except to learn to accept that which is, whatever it turns out to be.Cultivating serenity is hard work, but it maintains sanity!
May it ever be so and blessed be you all!
~ Rev. Mike