The Serenity Prayer Has Its Limits

Whenever my friend goes into her litany of all the roads in her life she regrets not taking, I’m tempted to remind her of the Serenity Prayer. The past is history mix—time to focus on what she can do about her life now.

And yet, when I sink beneath the weight of my own depression, I don’t find the Serenity Prayer all that helpful. What’s the good of knowing the difference between what you can and can’t change when the stuff you can’t do anything about is so darned painful?

No amount of cognitive reframing is going to change the fact that we’ve just elected a man to the presidency whose behavior is so despicable that it defies description. Or that a wonderful child I’m close to has a mother who is seemingly unable or unwilling to consider his emotional needs. Or that a beloved alcoholic relative refuses to stop drinking, despite a life-threatening illness.

These are things I can’t change. Yet on my down days, telling myself to simply accept them doesn’t seem all that helpful. Sometimes I just have to let myself feel the pain over the things I truly can’t control.

While I’m a huge believer in the Serenity Prayer, it has its limits.

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