At a yoga class one day, my teacher read a simple quote that is a spin on the Serenity Prayer. It goes like this:
God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change,
The courage to change the one I can,
And the wisdom to know it’s me.
The quote, like the prayer itself, is profound in its simplicity, but difficult to practice sometimes. Most of us know we cannot change others and can only change ourselves. But knowing something is different from living it.
The Serenity Prayer and Acceptance
Thanks to my yoga practice, I’ve gotten better at letting go, and I see things a little differently now than I did before. I used to get more stressed over the way others reacted to things I did (or didn’t do) and felt it was my responsibility to be sure everyone close to me was always happy.
I’m easier on myself now. That doesn’t mean I go out of my way to disappoint people, of course. But when I’ve done my best and they’re still not happy, or when they take things way too personally, I don’t spend hours obsessing over how I can change their minds about the role I play in their misery.
It makes me think, though. While I’m busy changing myself and accepting the people I cannot change, how many people are struggling to accept me? How much effort should we make to get along with those who challenge us while accepting them at the same time? After all, relationships take work, and good relationships are somewhat rare. It’s not always feasible to let people go just because we can’t change them.
Sometimes even changing ourselves won’t help
We all have people in our lives we wish would change. Sometimes those people are members of our immediate family. It’s difficult to just say, “Here is a person I love and a person I cannot change.” What does that mean for the day-to-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute interactions we have with these people we care deeply about but don’t always get along with comfortably?
I’m not talking about simply acknowledging we can’t change another person. We can’t. I accept that. Problems arise, though, when we struggle to cope with who that person is at a challenging moment. After all, they always have the option to change if they want to.
For now, though, our only option if we want to get along may be to change the way we react to people we can’t change. We can change our minds about them, and we can change our belief that we—or they—are solely responsible for the success or failure of the relationship. Perhaps we can even rethink the need to be in the relationship in the first place.
The Serenity Prayer Does Not Ask Us to Go It Alone
I sometimes fantasize about being completely independent. I would need no one and no one would need me. Then I could surrender to the powers that be—go with the flow as it were—with complete ease.
Needless to say, the universe is on to my fantasies of independence. I know in reality no one is completely independent, but for some, it’s easy to think that’s the case, especially if one is financially independent. We are beings that need to be in relationships.
One With All
Accepting that we’re all connected is a tough lesson to learn for many people, especially in the stage of life when career and financial success seems most important. But taking care of business is not the same as relating well and understanding that none of us can accomplish much on our own.
I’m not minimizing the value of financial success. Having creature comforts and providing for those around us is an important part of life. But no amount of success or money can separate us from our need for connection.
We cannot get along with everyone, and we cannot be close to everyone. No matter how good we get at serenity, though—at changing ourselves or accepting that we cannot change others—the reality is we still need others.
Now you may wonder what all of this has to do with the Serenity Prayer, acceptance, and focusing on changing ourselves, not others. The answer is as we move through life and adjust how we relate and react, I think we need to be careful not to equate serenity with indifference or the belief that we don’t need others.
Our goal as yogis is union; we cannot do this alone! We can, however, choose our connections wisely. And we can to accept and let go when we need to.
Hi, I’m Maria. I created Yoga Circles for you if you want to delve more deeply into the philosophy, practice, and life-changing effects of yoga. I’m also a writer and editor who helps small business owners, wellness professionals, teachers, and authors publish books, develop marketing strategies, and connect with readers, clients, and students. Visit my website (link below) for more about that. I’d love to hear from you!