Thoughts on The Serenity Prayer
by Kathy Coogan

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

This prayer is spoken as a mantra by people made docile by desperation. The anthem of the sobriety/recovery community, this prayer has spread outward to enrich those whose fears and despair have other origins.

The simplicity and brevity of the prayer make it available when the brain is cluttered and clenched with worry and doubt, a few baby steps up from, “God help me.”

Recently a family member was diagnosed with a tumor. Searching Google for reassurance was a mistake. Dr. Google spoke of scary things, ugly things, fatal things. The actual living, breathing doctor had been well-trained in CYA, hinting at possibilities but refusing, like a Las Vegas casino dealer, to discuss probabilities. We bystanders professed confidence and optimism to the patient, using smiles to disguise the fear that our eyes couldn’t hide.

The patient spoke in code, “Whatever happens, we’ll get through this,” using the almighty “whatever” as a trash bin to contain the awfulness. Tumor is a word that triggers terror like the snap of a trap just before it bites.

But in the meantime, before the surgical process began, before biopsy results could be assessed and determined by the chain of disinterested technicians, we sought relief. Relief from our imaginations which constructed evil scenarios even as our mouths chattered on about hope.

What to do? What to do? Aha! In a moment of peace which appeared like a Super Bowl commercial, more essential than the game itself, the Serenity Prayer popped up. “God grant me the serenity…” And yes, that’s all we asked for. The serenity to accept “whatever.” Courage and wisdom were still blurry things off at the end of the prayer. Just please give us some serenity, as the jokester says, “NOW!”

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