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.

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