Recently I got a little pimple on my cheek that annoyed me. It wasn’t very big, but just wouldn’t go away. I finally squeezed and poked at it hoping to get rid of it once and for all. Instead, it became infected and grew to cover half of my face. At least it seemed that way to me. It’s finally healing but would have been gone by now if I’d just left it alone.

I’m taking this as a life lesson. So many little problems consume way too much of our thoughts. Many are ones we cannot do anything to change. Like a dripping faucet, the negative energy of that unpleasant person, uneven step on the front porch, and rush hour traffic brings us down every time we think about it.

The Serenity Prayer, attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, offers a guide in dealing with these situations. It begins, “God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”

The challenge, of course, is in distinguishing between what can and cannot be changed. It isn’t always easy to know if the problem is one that’s best dealt with immediately or one that can never fully be resolved.

But we do eventually figure that out in time. If we keep trying different ways to resolve a situation and it continues, we might have to let it go. For example, there are people that will never compromise, never treat us respectfully, and repeatedly hurt us. These are the problems we have to accept that cannot be changed, as the prayer goes. Our only alternative may be to wish them peace and avoid them as much as possible. There is no benefit in placing ourselves in an ongoing position that causes us pain.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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