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The Search for Serenity

Issue 12

Taking the world as it is, not what I would have it be

The word serenity often invokes images of white sand beaches, tranquil ponds, puffy white clouds. and softly, swaying fields of grass.

It can be tied to thoughts of “if only I was there” I would become serene.

Serenity is a state of being: Calm, quiet, peaceful.

In Season 9 of the TV show, “Seinfeld,” Episode 3, “The Serenity Now,” focused on the idea that if you said the words, “serenity now,” anything stressful would just melt away, and that stuffing anger was a poor coping skill. In the beginning of the episode, Frank Costanza angrily yells “serenity now!” and when asked why, he explains that his doctor gave him a tape to help with his blood pressure and that the words could be used as a tool in order to control his anger and lower his blood pressure.

Later in the episode, Kramer is seen as calm and serene although covered in eggs, and calmly says “serenity now” repeatedly. When Jerry asks if he’s using Frank’s technique, Kramer confidently responds, “The anger, it just melts right off,” and then almost immediately starts to get frustrated while trying to open a bag of chips.

The beloved comedy offers food for thought: Can words like “serenity now” truly help melt away anger and stress, leaving peace and tranquility? Can directing a command aimed at my anxiety and incompatibility with my outside environment actually calm me and create an inner state or feeling that is soothing and relaxed?

A prayer credited to Reinhold Niebuhr, a Protestant theologian, ethicist, and professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, has done just that for many people around the world. Written in 1932, the prayer did not originally have a title in its earlier version; it read “Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know one from the other.”

When Frank Costanza thought of serenity, did he consider it would take courage to change things that could be altered? Was there any level of acceptance in the circumstances or of the people around him? Did he understand that there was even a remote possibility that he could discern one from the other?

The prayer Reinhold Niebuhr created asked a divine creator for help in having courage, finding serenity in the acceptance of things beyond his control, and knowing when it was courage that was needed, or acceptance.

Serenity didn’t come with the words, it came with the acceptance of the circumstances exactly as they were.

The prayer became popularized when it was adopted and modified for use by Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12- step programs and named “The Serenity Prayer.” This version is widely known as, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
In 12-step fellowships, the prayer is a tool that helps someone to accept the reality of a situation, focusing on what that person can change themselves and coming to a place of acceptance for things that are out of their control.

When a person stops fighting the reality of a situation, real serenity can be felt as the mind comes to terms with reality.

Although some may attest to the power of prayer to God, gods, or a Creative Power, others have a secular view and have modified the wording to achieve the same purpose of serenity.

It is not known who wrote the long version of the Serenity Prayer, which continues: “In troubled times may I fi nd the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the 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 this world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting in myself to make things right in my life. Trusting in humanity to provide a better world for our children. If I do this I may be able to fi nd love and joy in my friends, family and community.”

The goal is serenity, the path is found through the determination of what can be changed and what can’t be changed and the focus of one’s energy on changing either the reality or one’s perception of the reality. The Serenity Prayer is a tangible reminder and road map to attaining what may look and feel like your favorite vacation spot, existing inside of you.

From our readers:
The Serenity Prayer helps me know when to be quiet and when to be brave. — Rebecca
For me, the Serenity Prayer means a willingness to keep the focus on myself and what I can do to improve while striving to fully accept all the rest of the Universe’s kids just as they are. — Mary

How does the serenity prayer work for you?

Niki Curtis
Niki Curtis
Niki Curtis of Portland is a woman in long-term recovery whose passion is to help others and spread positivity. She loves to find creative ways to do that, including writing for Journey.

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