The Wisdom to Know the Difference

I was reflecting on the recovery prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” It occurred to me that it would be valuable to more deeply explore each section of this invocation—acceptance, courage, and discernment—and help others gain deeper insight into these core elements of graceful living. This article is the third in this series.

By George A. Boyd © 2021

Q: What role does wisdom play in guiding our choices?

A: When you awaken your vehicle of consciousness on the Wisdom Plane, you begin to be able to tune into the stream of intuitive guidance that comes from this form. It guides you to choose between four choice-frames:

  1. Between the greater of two goods
  2. Between good and evil
  3. Between the lesser of two evils
  4. Between taking action or reposing in being and not making a choice

Many people believe that moral choice is only between good and evil, but you may be able to recall instances in your own life where you have operated in these other choice frames.

Q: Does wisdom also guide renunciation?

A: Renunciation occurs when you make a choice to give something up and replace it with something else. In the popular imagination, renunciation is giving up something evil and choosing something good, but like choice, there are four renunciation frames:

  1. Renunciation of evil to do good
  2. Renunciation of good to do evil
  3. Renunciation of good to do greater good
  4. Renunciation of evil to do greater evil

You may wish to consider if you have ever operated in these renunciation frames.

Wisdom tells us there are times when we must make a choice, and there are times when we must withdraw from something we are currently doing and change course. We hope that people will choose the good and let go of evil, but unfortunately, many people do embrace evil. They do this when:

  1. They believe they do not have any other option other than to choose evil
  2. They are acting under a dominant, addictive passion and cannot control their behavior
  3. They act under the advisement of someone who directs them to do evil, and who convinces them that it will bring a good outcome
  4. They come to believe that evil choices are good

People will often do evil when they believe a lie. In this age of misinformation, it is very easy for people to not hear their inner voice of wisdom, but instead, they believe the irrational voices of those who promulgate conspiracy theories, and the lies of demagogues and negative thought leaders.

We encourage you to begin performing a dialog with your Soul’s wisdom and learn to discern its voice among the many channels of information in your mind. As wisdom begins to become ascendant in you mind, it will guide your choices; it will show you the path of virtue and right activity; and it will reveal to you the inner jewel of truth that cannot be spun or distorted to fit someone’s religious or political agenda.

The Courage to Change the Things I Can

I was reflecting on the recovery prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” It occurred to me that it would be valuable to more deeply explore each section of this invocation—acceptance, courage, and discernment—and help others gain deeper insight into these core elements of graceful living. This article is the second in this series.

By George A. Boyd © 2021

Q: How do I summon the courage to do what I must?

A: Fear inhibits action. Courage requires that you face and overcome your fears, and take action. Several solutions have been advocated for overcoming fear. These include:

  1. An act of will – choose to do what you fear to make you realize that the consequences that your fear projects are baseless. This reveals your fear is false evidence appearing real.
  2. Compassion – Show love and compassion for the frightened parts in your mind and gently ease them through what they fear; let them know they are not alone, and they are safe.
  3. Systematic desensitization – This lists different intensities of fear towards an object or situation. You are exposed to progressively greater intensities of the experience of this fear, while you are trained to relax and release any fear you feel at this level. You do this until you can be exposed to the most fearful instance of your fear and you do not feel afraid. [In this method, a trained psychotherapist walks you through this exercise.]
  4. Vipassana – You let the feelings of fear surface, and you fully experience them. You allow them to release and pass away. You continue this process with your fear until these scared feelings no longer arise.
  5. Rational refutation – in this method, which is used in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, you uncover the beliefs that underlie your feelings of fear, and inspect them to see if they are rational. You refute those beliefs that are irrational, and not founded in reality. [Like Systematic Desensitization, this is usually done with a trained psychotherapist.]
  6. Faith – You pray to God or your spiritual Master to protect you. You believe that God is with you during frightening episodes in your life. You ask for God’s help to grant you strength and courage.
  7. Systematic transformation – You change things in your life, so you do not have to encounter what you fear. You change your beliefs and perceptions through reframing, so the fear object is no longer intimidating. [This method is commonly used in coaching.]

To overcome your fear, you need to find a method that helps you work with it. Many people have used these approaches to successfully rise above their fear: there may also be a technique that will work for you.

Love and Fear

In the Bible it says, “Perfect love casts out fear.” [I John 4:18] This higher love within you can help you surmount your fear.
Fear comes from your wish to avoid:

  • Death
  • Injury or pain
  • Humiliation; loss of esteem with others; experiencing censure or ridicule
  • Stress or extreme difficulty
  • Loss of something valuable to you—love, money, or a cherished possession
  • Experiencing failure; making the wrong decision and not succeeding in what you propose to do
  • Withdrawal of others’ love, support, or favor

Perfect love is the experience of the Soul’s unconditional love. This love:

  • Is detached from the struggle your ego is going through in your life
  • Perceives itself as immortal, and is not afraid of death
  • Inspires faith, hope, and courage in you
  • Leads you to carry out altruistic acts of kindness and charity for others
  • Enables you to defer gratification, and to persevere despite difficulties or trials
  • Grants the experience to the ego that it is not alone; that the Higher Self within stands with it
  • Remains steadfastly with you until the challenge or crisis is ended

One of the ways you can overcome fear is to invite this unconditional love of the Soul to be present with you, to hold your hand and walk you through this terrifying episode in your life. Inviting in a Higher Power—your Higher Self, an angel, a spiritual Master or Savior, or the form of the Divine that you call upon—can instill in you the courage, strength, and faith to move forward when you feel frightened.
When you have the inner confidence and conviction you will be okay; this will enable you to get through this frightful encounter.

You can get the assistance of a psychotherapist or coach to help you work with difficult fears you cannot resolve yourself. You can learn to work with your fears in your unconscious mind using a variety of evocative self-help methods.

In our intermediate meditation courses—the in-person Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation and the by-mail and online Accelerated Meditation Program—we teach methods that will enable you to work with fear: Process Meditation, the Mandala Method, and the Rainbow Technique.

We encourage you to find a resonant method that works for you to overcome your fear and to move ahead to the next step in your life.

Those of you who are in stable recovery from your addictions may find the Addiction Recovery Coaching Program helpful.

To Accept the Things I Cannot Change

I was reflecting on the recovery prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” It occurred to me that it would be valuable to more deeply explore each section of this invocation—acceptance, courage, and discernment—and help others gain deeper insight into these core elements of graceful living. This article is the first in this series.

By George A. Boyd © 2021

Q: What does acceptance mean? How do I know whether I can change something or not?

A: Acceptance has a number of facets. Some of the expressions of acceptance are:

  • Surrendering to the Divine Will and asking the Divine to guide you
  • Letting go of continuing to struggle and just being
  • Ceasing to fight for something and let others have their way; become detached as to the outcome
  • Stop playing the game and enacting the old weary dramas over and over; being willing to allow a new pattern to emerge in your life that is authentic and actualizing
  • Abandoning worry and over-thinking and just allow yourself to be present and serene
  • Acknowledging and feeling gratitude for the good that is now in your life
  • Step out of the perspective where you feel targeted and experience stress; take in the larger picture and recognize the other possibilities that are available to you

When you stop struggling, resisting, fighting, and worrying, you can step into the peace of acceptance. In acceptance, you acknowledge what is—not what you want the world and other people to be, but what is happening now and who people actually are.

We have explored what and how you can change in one of our articles, “Acceptance and Change Revisited.” We reproduce it here:


Acceptance and Change Revisited

Excepted from “When You’re Crazy and Stoned” © 1998 by George A. Boyd

Acceptance means you allow things to remains they are without attempting to change them. You remain in a state of being, of witnessing, of non-action. This passive state promotes self-understanding.

Change means you apply your will in specific ways to alter the circumstances and patterns of your life. You adopt the role of creator and transformer by using your will.

There are several ways you can change:

  1. Change of perception – this means changing what you look at: instead of only seeing the bad, you also look at the good; you are willing to hear something else and to feel something else
  2. Change of action – you change what you do in a particular situation
  3. Change of attitude – you change what something means to you, so you react to it in a different way
  4. Change of thinking – you analyze how you defend and distort certain areas of your life and be willing to consider an alternate approach
  1. Change of context – using your imagination, you become willing to view an issue or problem from another angle or perspective
  2. Change of suggestion – you give new directives to the subconscious mind, which changes how you habitually or automatically responds to situations
  3. Change of commitment – you choose what you commit to and you act with honor and integrity
  4. Change of role – you perform other tasks, look at a problem from another perspective, and you do new things
  5. Change of values – you reexamine your ideas of what you “should,” “ought to,” or “must” do, have, or become, and modify them
  6. Change of goals – you set new priorities, changing when and how you will pursue a goal, and you re-evaluate the goals that you have set
  7. Change of concept – by gathering new information through study and learning, you develop new conceptual models to view the situation
  8. Change of self-awareness – through insight, you come to view problems and life situations in a new context
  9. Choosing to change – you activate your will to alter an existing behavior, attitude, belief, or construct

The idea of making a resolution means that:

  1. You will review your life
  2. You will acknowledge what you have accomplished
  3. You notice how you feel about what you have done
  4. Then you notice what feels incomplete, or what you desire that you don’t yet have
  5. You make a plan for obtaining it
  6. You commit yourself to doing it
  7. You do whatever it takes to achieve your objective

You decide to change. You resolve to change. You make change happen.


Things You Cannot Change

You can change your own behavior and can work on the conscious and unconscious levels of your own mind. You sometimes can persuade others to agree with you and get them to do what you want; sometimes you can’t.

You don’t control wars, diseases for which mankind has not found a cure, and the mighty forces of Nature that act beyond humanity’s ability to stop or control. You may not control aspects of your own nature—genetic conditions and mental tendencies that act outside of your ability to control then using your will or intention.

You must determine what you can do, what you are willing to do given your abilities and passion, and what you will do. We say, “act within your zone of liberty to improve your life, to make others’ lives better, and to make spiritual progress.”

Accept you cannot do everything, fix all problems, bring miraculous solutions for everyone, and instantly experience fulfillment of all of your dreams. Accept that healing takes time, and recovery from addiction and trauma takes time.

Accept what is. Believe in what can be. Do what you can to make constructive change where and when you can. Work to actualize your dreams and your spiritual potentials. Make this a life that counts and makes a difference.

Those of you who are in stable recovery from your addictions may find the Addiction Recovery Coaching Program helpful.