I am so sick of “Fight or Flight.”
My ex-wife was a slam the door and runaway from arguments kind of girl. She ran away alot. It never sat well with me. I can only imagine how she was as a child. It hurts to realize that I was, in many ways, just her place to run away to.
When we fought, I never wanted to run away. I never wanted her to run away. Her running away always hurt. It made for an annoying dynamic that left us both unsatisfied with the fighting. When fighting is all you have, you should work on making it satisfying.
I did learn one incredibly important thing.
Serenity is more than an amazing movie. I will have the serenity prayer on speed dial.
God, grant me the Serenity
To Accept the things I cannot change;
The Courage to change the things I can;
The Wisdom to know the difference.
Although it is associated with alcoholics anonymous and invokes an almighty God, it is one of the truest prayers I utter. It is a roadmap through conflicts that you should attempt to commit to memory, but should keep in your car far those days you start to run away and don’t know where to go or how to get back. If you brood, you should keep it on the wall in front of your favorite brooding chair.
Let me go over the key points to help you memorize this.
First of all, as an atheist, I continue to render this with the words “God” and “Grant.” These words are important, because serenity is a gift. Sometimes it will seem like it is a gift from an omnipotent creator and sometimes it will seem like a gift in the way of a talent. Remember that serenity is something you have to ask for, seek and work on. Also pay close attention to the fact that serenity is the first thing you ask for. If you cannot achieve serenity, stop reading and find it.
As this is “The Serenity Prayer,” let me take a moment to explain serenity. Serenity is “the state of being calm or peaceful.” When you gain serenity, it means you’ve reached a state where you are not happy or sad. You are not disappointed or excited. Peace in this regards is not a happy place, like when you compare peace and war. Serenity is a place between everything.
Second, you must use that serenity to accept the things you cannot change. If you are in a serene state, this is an easy passive statement. If you are seeking serenity, let me give you a great big secret. If you’ve been trying and trying and trying, you must accept that up until now, you could not change it. “This,” whatever “this” is, is something you must accept. We are here and regardless of how we got here, here we are. Accepting this is not giving up, finding this kind of peace is just stabilizing.
Now that you are serene, the next thing you need is courage. You need to look and see the things you can change or at least try to. You must have the courage to try. Change is sometimes easy and often very difficult, but it is the next thing. Again, this is part of the same request, you are asking for the courage to try changing something. You need to face the fear that you may have already failed a million times and this might be your last chance to try something. You may need to face the fear that you’ve never tried to change something and it has always been that way, so who knows what a change could do. Courage is again a gift that sometimes comes from inspiration and outside sources, but is also a gift like muscle that can be exercised. Wherever you can find it, find it.
Oh, wisdom! Always! Always, a moment too late. Yes, notice that wisdom comes at the end. It is the destination. You did not have it this time. You are asking for the wisdom for next time. Remember that. Remember “this.” You gain wisdom by discovering that something couldn’t be changed the way you tried to change it. You gain wisdom by remembering the things you can change. When you ask for wisdom, let it be a reminder to you that the universe is scattering wisdom at your feet right now and if you do not pick it up, it is your fault. You ask for wisdom and it is left like a gift. Do not forget to take it with you and treasure it. Unlike the other things you asked for, this is not something you can work on, so don’t let it slip by.
I was a brooder and she was a runner. Our situation was a rollercoaster of emotions. Eventually though, I found serenity. I was paralyzed at serenity for a long time and it took a long time for me to grow the courage. Change was hard and painful. I like to think I collected the wisdom on my way out of the door.
So now, I look to the serenity prayer. I hope you will at least look at it. I think there is much to be learned here. And if you disagree, feel free. All I know for fact is that I’ve learned much in my life about conflict and most of it is in the Serenity prayer. Certainly, the lessons apply to so many other things, but I haven’t found a better way to neutralize fight or flight.