The Serenity to Accept the Things I Cannot Change

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2014 Nancy Virden

photo-24768993-attractive-woman-blowing-at-her-hot-coffeeA family I know has a seven year-old boy with Down’s Syndrome. Tommy* is the youngest of three. His teenage brother and sister are normal in every respect except for sharing life with Tommy.

He is in need of constant care, is not potty-trained, and unlike most teenagers his siblings take turns keeping their little brother clean. This is not what most of us would choose in adolescence.

Acceptance. That’s challenging sometimes.

This same family has experienced divorce. The father sees his children every weekend and some holidays.

He had to fill his new apartment with furniture and plan things for his young visitors to do. They were uncomfortable with the change, and quiet. Only Tommy seemed relaxed. About a year later, they chatter and tease each other. All four have found their place.

Are they glad for the divorce? Not likely. Acceptance is sometimes the only option.

The Serenity Prayer, a longer poem trimmed back famously to three lines, begins with a request for peace of mind. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…”

During this season of holidays, perhaps there is much we cannot control. (1) Other people’s behaviors (2) Who is in our families (3) How holidays are celebrated in our neighborhoods (4) Weather (5) Traffic (6) Shopping lines (7) Power outages. (8) World events. Maybe some of us cannot change our work schedules, vacation time, health, or ability to travel.

Acceptance interrupts aggravation, putting an end to that ugly stress churning in our stomachs and giving us headaches. Acceptance recognizes hurt, sadness, and disappointment as realities and then moves on. Acceptance is not an “I don’t care,” it is “I care but will not spend effort worrying about what I cannot change.”

Acceptance relaxes our muscles, quiets our fears, allows for joy, and celebrates hope. The battle in our minds is where we win or lose serenity.


NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

**picture from

*not his real name





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