God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things
That I can,
And the wisdom always
To know the difference.
Reinhold Niebuhr *
Although the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr has been credited with this prayer, there is great debate as to it’s historical origins. A variety of sources have been cited, including the writings of Aristotle, St. Thomas Acquinas, St Francis of Assisi, and even to early Sanskrit writings.
In the early days of Alcoholics Anonymous, the prayer was adopted and printed on cards, which became a way for the early AA members to identify themselves and also to invite others to meetings. Bill W., one of the founders of AA wrote that “never have we seen so much AA in so few words.” To this day, it is used in every meeting of every form of 12 Step program that has grown out from the original AA.
No matter the source, there is universal agreement as to the relevance of the prayer as we face the challenges of living one day at a time. Wisdom and courage often seem to be short supply when we attempt what sometimes simply will not be possible. yet, serenity is often the critical piece needed to allow the impossible to become possible.
Jim Harger, M.Ed., LPC
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