The saying goes: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” In the world of religious rituals and liturgies, it more often breeds complacency and insincerity. Such things as the Lord’s Prayer, the Doxology and the Serenity Prayer are often overused until they become mere cliches. That is sad, because, when they are employed as genuine, heartfelt prayer and meditation, they can produce growth and peace.
Nearly everyone is familiar with the short version of the Serenity Prayer: “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.” But some time ago, I rediscovered the prayer in its entirety and relearned the parts which flesh out what’s often a mere memorized recitation at the end of a meeting. It goes on to say:
“. . .Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking as Jesus did this world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.”
My older daughter, Julianne, lives some distance away from me, so we do not have many opportunities to have long talks about life’s principles and personal values. But we have had some very profound exchanges via email. One had to do with tolerating those who are headed in unhealthy directions without joining them in their self-defeating habits and activities.
When I stumbled across the complete Serenity Prayer, I realized that Jesus also tolerated people of the world who ran opposite to what He stood for. He just did not accommodate or enable their wrong-headed ways of life. And a quick read of the four Gospels will reveal a Jesus who was totally at peace within Himself and with His Father.
When I wrote to Julianne, I offered a formula which I have yet to perfect in myself, but which I suggest to anyone who wants to try it. Tolerance without compromise leads to serenity; serenity leads to forgiveness; forgiveness leads to tolerance without compromise; tolerance without compromise leads to serenity. . .etc., etc.