The Wisdom to Know the Difference in Serenity Prayer

"We learned about life as children and it is necessary to change the way we intellectually view life in order to stop being the victim of the old tapes. By looking at, becoming conscious of, our attitudes, definitions, and perspectives, we can start discerning what works for us and what does not work. We can then start making choices about whether our intellectual view of life is serving us - or if it is setting us up to be victims because we are expecting life to be something which it is not."

"In order to stop giving our power away, to stop reacting out of our inner children, to stop setting ourselves up to be victims, so that we can start learning to trust and Love ourselves, we need to begin to practice discernment.

Discernment is having the eyes to see, and the ears to hear - and the ability to feel the emotional energy that is Truth.

We cannot become clear on what we are seeing or hearing if we are reacting to emotional wounds that we have not been willing/able to feel and subconscious attitudes that we have not been willing/able to look at.

We cannot learn to trust ourselves as long as we are still setting ourselves up to be victimized by untrustworthy people. We cannot learn to Love ourselves enough to meet our own needs until we start to release the attitudes and feelings that tell us that we are unworthy - that it is somehow shameful to be ourselves. We cannot learn to Love ourselves without learning discernment.

The black and white thinking of Codependence causes us to either keep the baby in the dirty bath water or throw out both. Discernment is picking the baby out of the dirty bath water."

Quote from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

This is the first in a series of articles which are going to be focused on applying the Serenity Prayer in our lives so that it is possible to take responsibility for our lives and learn to be more Loving to our selves. For anyone who is not familiar with the Serenity Prayer, here is the commonly accepted version of it - followed by my own personal adapted version.


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.

(The Serenity Prayer is generally thought to have been written by Reinhold Niebuhr)

God / Goddess / Great Spirit, please help me to access:

the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (life, other people),

the courage and willingness to change the things I can (me, my own attitudes and behaviors),

and the wisdom and clarity to know the difference.

This is such a powerful, simple, and functional formula for living life that references to it comes up in my writing quite often. I am probably going to be devoting a number of articles to sharing how I have learned to apply this prayer - this mystical guideline for spiritual integration and emotional balance - into my relationship with life in order to achieve some serenity, to find some happiness and peace in my human experience.

I think it is pretty obvious that the most important component in this prayer is "the wisdom to know the difference." Without the wisdom to know the difference between the things we cannot change and the things we can change, the prayer really has little application. The way that we learn to have wisdom is by learning to practice discernment.

Several years ago someone sent me an e-mail with information they had gotten from a web site that offered explanations for where some of our common English language expressions originated. The explanations were quite interesting. One that particularly interested me was the genesis of the expression "Don't throw out the baby with the bath water."

The explanation was that large families and their field helpers and their families all took baths once a week in the same tub of water. The men would go first, then the women, then the children from oldest to youngest. Thus by the time the baby was put in the tub of water it was quite murky, and probably thick with grime and dirt - thus making it possible to lose the baby in the bath water. I just did an internet search on the great search engine Google and within a few minutes found a document that stated that explanation wasn't true at all, and the phrase originated in German. Another internet hoax. Oh well. The image works for me.

It really doesn't matter where the phrase comes from, it is an apt and wise proverb that refers to practicing discernment.

Discern - 1. To perceive, as with sight or mind; recognize; apprehend. 2 To discriminate mentally; recognize as separate and different. 3. To distinguish; discriminate.

Discernment - 1. The act or process of being discerning. 2, The mental power of discerning; keenness of judgment; insight. See synonyms under acumen, understanding, wisdom. (Webster's New Illustrated Dictionary)

Discernment is about learning to separate truth from lies, illusion from reality, fantasy from facts. It is about learning the difference between: emotional truth and Spiritual Truth; emotional impulse and intuitive guidance; being victimized and feeling like a victim. It is about recognizing the difference between a person that can be trusted and one who will betray us - between a soul connection and a emotional attraction to a person who is emotionally unavailable.

Practicing discernment is necessary to learn to trust ourselves and Love ourselves. It is necessary to be able to live life in a mature adult manner. It is necessary in order to have a chance to have healthy relationships - especially a romantic relationship.

You can see why I think discernment is pretty important. Discernment is the key ingredient for applying the Serenity Prayer to living our lives - so I will devote some articles to discussing discernment and the process of learning how to practice it in one's life.

Go to Serenity - Accepting the things we cannot change