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.
– Reinhold Niebuhr
One of the most famous prayers in the world is the Serenity prayer. It is often called the A.A. prayer since it is used in so many 12 Step programs. While the word serenity is used interchangeably with peace, calmness, and tranquility, the etymology of the word is from 13th century Latin word “serēnus” and means something closer to clear or unclouded view. This root alters the meaning of the prayer slightly from acceptance to the intention of keeping the proper perspective. In other words, give me the unclouded view and quietness of heart to allow me to cut through the shadows, unsubstantiated rumors, and the vagueness so that I may see the truth.
As I have mentioned before, one of the most important reasons that I run is so that I am reflective enough to have this inner calm. Something about the simplicity of running attunes my mind and body to a bigger perspective. I hit reset on the narrow perspective and then make more rational and compassionate decisions by answering the questions such as, “Is this really an issue that I need to be worried about?” “Why am I allowing something so unimportant to consume me?” All the questions could be boiled down to the plea expressed in the serenity prayer.
One would think that all the mileage would result in a zen-like existence where runners live like monks, merely floating in this world, unencumbered by problems. Alas, it is not so! Having deep contentment and internal peace may result in better sleep, but even the holiest saints did not live holy card lives. They did, however, keep an unclouded view of the important things in life. This outlook can change one’s life immensely. It is the ripple effect; inner peace leads to peaceful relationships which create supportive communities. All these give way to less stress. All this may seem trite but as I commute to work each morning and see people literally screaming in their cars while stuck in traffic, I wonder what would happen if they said the serenity prayer rather than screamed “serenity now!”