In this third and final post on the Serenity Prayer, I discuss the Wisdom needed to lead an ethical life.
“[Grant me] the Wisdom to know
the difference [between what I can and cannot change.]”
It would be nice to imagine that our lives are divided neatly between things we can’t control (like the weather) and things we can (like the decision to get out of bed). But life’s not like that. In most situations big and small, we have some control, but it’s incomplete. Here are a few examples: raising children, political engagement, an evening out with friends, running a business. It takes Wisdom in these all-too-common mixed situations to have both the Courage to act responsibly and the Serenity to accept the final outcome which doesn’t depend entirely on us and might be very different from what we might have preferred. Take the example of a new retail business. Suppose you do everything right — market research, choice of products, pricing, location or website, marketing, PR and so on. You still don’t have control over how many customers show up, how much they spend, how often they return, how they rate you, not to mention all the government regulations that can affect your business. In short, you really don’t have control over whether your business succeeds or fails. So maybe your business doesn’t perform at the level you had hoped; maybe you need to struggle much harder than you had ever imagined; maybe the future continues to look like an endless string of daunting challenges. Here’s what Wisdom looks like: You continue pressing on making all the right rational decisions for the benefit of your business, while honoring your personal moral values; at the same time, through the seemingly endless stream of unanticipated disasters and challenges, you manage to control your frustration, anger and anxiety, serenely accepting whatever happens with equanimity. It’s a big challenge, and it’s all up to you!