God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Understand and accept.
I am coming up on 50 years of age. For me, this seems like quite a few years. For my mom, probably not so much. For my daughters, happily, 50 is an eternity away. And there is no way to change our opinions of this. I will not be able to convince my mom that 50 is old, nor my daughters that 50 is right around the corner. And yet I try.
“Mom, my knees hurt. I’m so old.” or, to my daughters, “You’ll be 50 before you know it. It’s really not that old.”
I argue both sides of the coin, disagreeing with everyone. Maybe it is just my nature. I’d like it to not be. The first line of the Serenity Prayer talks about accepting the things I cannot change. This is tough.
I cannot change someone’s mind. Only they can do that. As the above example points out, we will argue both sides of a coin, seemingly just to disagree. If I tell someone they are wrong, they will simply dig in to their position and defend it. That just serves to make them believe their position more. If I disagree with them, that is a losing strategy. It would be better to say nothing at all.
Oddly enough, if I want someone to change their mind, the best way for me to do this is to agree with their position. See the right in it. There is a reason they hold that belief. I need to get in their shoes, get comfortable, and look around. Why do they have the position they do? There is probably some core belief or a foundation of truth that their thoughts are based on. Get in there and look at it. I need to find their truth, recognize it, and agree with it.
Now we are getting somewhere. If they don’t do the same to me, that is okay. After all, they think my ideas are wrong.
So, I am in their shoes, living their truth. Somewhere from this point, I think things get skewed, but first I need to let them know that I understand their core belief or foundation. I’m on the other side of the argument, understanding and accepting. There are no defensive walls. I’m on the inside.
If I’m able, I should stop there. Let it simmer that I understand where they are coming from and I accept their position. Over time, I will try to understand what is built on that foundation. Are there truths that I was not seeing? Are their falsehoods that skew the structure of their ideas? If the former, I’ve grown as a person. If the latter, I’m on the inside, my questions about the skew can be accepted and heard.
I will still not be able to change their mind, but I will be able to evaluate my position honestly as well as plant seeds for my friend to consider. I may just be in a funny place as I prepare for another year, my 50th trip around the Sun, but it feels like the Serenity Prayer’s reference to accepting things I cannot change is talking primarily about other people.
In 2018, I will work to accept other people for what they are and for what they believe. If you see me acting differently than this, please be a friend and call me out on it.
Courage to change
I seem to be an eternal optimist. Even my ex-wife, who is doing a great job of raising our two beautiful daughters, recognized that I tend to not give up, perhaps using the term juggernaut. I’m not sure she meant it as a compliment at the time, but I took it as one and I accept that about myself. If I feel something should be changed, I will work to make that change happen.
Sometimes it is something small, like picking up trash, putting a dollar in the bucket, or saying sorry. Sometimes it is something big, like picking up the pieces and trying again, managing an addiction, or saying sorry.
Growing up, the poster on my wall, which I believe absolutely helped to define my life, stated, “Every commitment, whether great or small, starts with the same two words: I’ll try.”
In 2018, I will try to improve myself as a person. I will try to continue to work as hard as I can and to inspire others to work with me. I will try to apologize as soon as I recognize my actions have hurt others. I will try to understand and accept that other people are different from me and that this is okay and should be celebrated
The wisdom to know the difference
The first 50 years seemed to fly by. And they seem to just go by faster and faster. I look forward to the day that this wisdom finally settles into my head and makes a home.
Or maybe I don’t. It is kind of fun thinking you can change the world.