The Things We Cannot Change
Humans have a love/hate relationship with change. If change gives us more sense of control, we like it. If not, we don’t.
The impact of the coronavirus is like the crash of a meteorite the size of Texas. We are still at the front end of the changes that its tidal wave will bring.
On this rainy Thursday morning, I am thinking about the queasy notion of change; and I look at the book near my elbow: Five Things We Cannot Change by David Richo. It reminds me of what I already know, but tend to forget.
As you might guess from the title, Richo riffs on Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous 1951 prayer. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…. This is the starting line of the recovery movement.
Niebuhr was a pastor and a theologian. He battled religious liberals over naïve views of sin and optimism; and he argued with religious conservatives over shallow assumptions on scripture and "true religion."
The Serenity Prayer compresses his life-themes and kneads them into the tense muscles of our souls. The simple prayer’s deep tissue massage makes our bodies say, “Ah.”
The deepest healing comes when we start to name things…the things we cannot change. Richo lists five: 1) We cannot change—that everything changes and ends. 2) We cannot change that things do not always go according to plan. 3) We can’t change that life is not always fair. 4) Pain is a part of life. 5) And, people are not loving and loyal all the time.
“Well duh,” I say. “I know that!” But I forget every time I try to change anyone else. I know well sin’s trajectory: choosing actions which alienate, followed by obsessive resentment, then stuck in the mud spinning my wheels. But, there is an antidote: confession, followed by forgiveness, soaked in compassion. Rinse, repeat. It is a prescription as old as the hills.
Who knows what changes and challenges are beyond the pandemic’s horizon? Desperation lingers and we feel socked in by our own doldrums. But we also take reasonable action based on credible, medical, public health advice.
Also, I suggest a daily dose of the Serenity Prayer. It is already FDA approved.