Sunday, May 10, 2009

"The Wisdom To Know The Difference."

Most Al-Anon meetings I've attended, close with the first stanza of the Serenity Prayer:

"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."

That last line takes quite a bit of mastering. If I don't have clarity about what is out of my control, I can expend enormous energy, (and develop a nasty little resentment) "tilting at windmills."

I shudder to recall the hours I've spent, plotting to change my ex-husband's alcoholic behavior, through various forms of manipulation and coercion. Here I am, all these years on, and as far as I am aware, he's still drinking. It's a disease. If the alcoholic themselves cannot change their own behavior, am I not arrogant in the extreme to imagine it within my powers? Can I change the course of a disease by browbeating the sufferer, blasting him or her with contemptuous assaults, and dissertations upon the low nature of his character?

Desperation can turn many of us into unpleasant company. We become "irritable and unreasonable without knowing it."

The Serenity Prayer offers us a shorthand method of reminding ourselves - we have limits, and we have choices. When we refuse to admit to our limits, we feel trapped and hopeless. It's an interesting paradox: accepting our limitations, opens before us, a vista of heretofore unseen possibilities. Our lives expand - from cramped obsession with the alcoholic, to satisfying abundance and variety - if only we are willing to accept.

Why do we ask God to grant us the wisdom to know the difference between our limits and our possibilities? I believe it's because most of us come into 12-step with our lives so compressed and compacted and minimised, we are unable to see the larger picture. We need help to remove our blinders of denial. We've worn them for so long, we're terrified at the prospect of removing them - what horror will be revealed?

We need our Higher Power to grant us wisdom, so that we may remove those blinders, and looking around us, blinking a bit at the brightness of the sunshine, see that which was always there, in our peripheral vision, hidden by our denial.

When I am granted the wisdom to know the difference, I do not waste my energy on a hopeless endeavor doomed to failure - I don't try to change another person. I turn my attention and my focus to my own character, and work upon that. It's always in need of maintenance - some major, some minor, but always sufficient to keep me well-occupied.

1 comment:

  1. I've often wondered if this is what it is all about;turn to a HIGHER POWER to accept what we can't change, the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference. We have to live in a world of dysfunction and are affected by the enviroment we live in. Men and women around me(the powers that be,those I have to deal with, parents, and family),seem to mess a lot of things up. I need a voice of reason.