Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tired of Fighting

I’m glad somebody has written an instruction manual explaining when to accept a situation and when to change it. I didn’t get Life’s Little Instruction Book when I was born, and what I know I’ve had to earn through trial and error. Much of what I’ve had to let go has scratch marks from my fingernails trying to keep hold of it.



So I was happy to be asked to review a book called “The Wisdom to Know the Difference: When to make a change—and when to let go” because I seriously need some tips. Life has been dicey for the past nine months and it looks to continue in that vein. There’s nothing remarkable about my “issues” except they’re new to me: Health problems, family worries, financial concerns, death and loss. I want to change them. Mainly I want them to stop hurting.

“The Wisdom to Know the Difference,” written by a Quaker spiritual teacher, Eileen Flanagan, is a guide to using the “serenity prayer” to change or accept the circumstances in one’s life. These days I’m saying the prayer with renewed vigor. I’ve said it thousands of times in AA meetings and I grew numb to it. Now I mean it with all my heart:

“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.”

I used to think the prayer was about ACCEPTING all the bad stuff inflicted on my world by outside forces. My AA training emphasizes acceptance: “Acceptance is the solution to all my problems today.” I have always choked on that, because as someone once told me, my “justice” meter is very sensitive. I’m a child of the anti-racism, anti-war, feminist era, and I fight back when people or institutions perpetrate injustice. Refusing to be intimidated, refusing to accept wrongdoing, applying effort to make change happen ~ this attitude has created major changes in my lifetime.

“The courage to change” is a strength, isn’t it? How will I discern “things I cannot change” unless I try to change them, and fail…a number of times? I feel as if I’ve fought for things all my life ~ overcoming my upbringing, success in college, good jobs, incompatible men, major depression, recovery from addiction, trying to be a good mother, a good daughter, a good wife. But last week I heard myself say, “I’m tired of fighting.”

I realize suddenly that it’s SERENITY I’m asking for first of all; peace of mind has to come before I can even think about accepting a situation or being courageous enough to work for change. For me, peace of mind is composed mainly of trust, the belief that all is fundamentally well. In talking with my hospice grief counselor and reading “The Wisdom to Know the Difference,” the spiritual journey starts with examining my ability to trust God’s ability to take care of things.

Some people read the instructions when they get a new product and some people don’t. I like instructions. So I appreciate the organization used by author Eileen Flanagan in “The Wisdom to Know the Difference”: seven steps in seven chapters, each one opening a gateway to the next. Eileen uses a logical process to describe a spiritual one, with lots of concrete examples from the lives of people she interviewed. She gets high marks from me for offering plenty of practical actions along the way ~ spiritual wisdom is wonderful, but I want to know what to DO in everyday life.

This is a book that needs to be studied. It asks searching questions. It aims to help to you transform your life in important, long-lasting ways. Take a look at the nature of her seven “lessons”: Recognize your conditioning, get to know who God made you to be, listen for divine guidance, change your attitude, accept yourself and others as you all are, let go of what you think things should be, take part in a community of people. There’s a lot to be done in the way of self-evaluation.

Eileen’s premise is that the serenity prayer asks the God I trust to give me: 1) peace in the face of things I can’t influence, because I have faith that God has a loving plan much larger than I can comprehend; 2) courage to act when I ought to act, because many times change for the better is needed; and 3) the inner clarity to discern which of those two God wants me to do. Making changes is equally important as recognizing when to let go and let God. Letting go is not the same as giving up.

“The Wisdom to Know the Difference” tells me that the serenity prayer isn’t about standing around accepting there’s nothing I can do to change things unless God assigns me some mission. Acceptance doesn’t mean doing nothing. There’s always something I can do, and often that involves the hard work of honest self-examination, recognizing what I’m afraid of, releasing my grip on expectations, and changing my attitude.

My review is part of a cyber book tour, and if you’re interested, you can see with other reviewers think here.



17 comments:

Rachel Fox said...

I come from a Quaker family and there is a lot about the Quaker way that exudes peace, practical coping, simplicity and importantly a focus away from the self and out into the world (all good). So I am kind of a god-free Quaker (or I try to be that).
x

Eileen Flanagan said...

I love that line--"my justice meter is very sensitive." That's definitely part of what motivated me to write this book. I really believe in the importance of serenity and letting go, but I see how those concepts have been misused by powerful people who want to quiet those with legitimate complaints. I wanted to show that spiritual practice can make us empowered, rather than passive or embittered.

Thank so much for the review! Blessings for the New Year!

Syd said...

It is a good book. I am reviewing it also.

izzy said...

This is cool! thank you-I was just studying enabling visa-a-vis a client
I " help out" this is a natural extension to it!

Magpie said...

This definitely sounds like a must-read book. I will be getting a copy. I'm very glad you have resources to help you in your journey through this part of your life and an open heart and discerning mind to make use of them.

Shakespeare said...

I HAVE to get this book!

I'm dealing with my son and a new school... and I keep telling myself that I can't make him behave well, that he will learn, or they will find a way to deal with him effectively...

But it's hard to let go. I have the horrible urge to shadow him at school and make sure he makes the right choices... but I can't do that.

I'm putting this on my reading list RIGHT NOW.

Heather J. @ TLC Books said...

I know what you mean about repeating a prayer so many times that it doesn't mean anything anymore. What a treat to return to that prayer and truly find meaning in it again, and new meaning at that!

I'm one of those people who always reads the instructions so it sounds like this book would work very well for me, just as it did for you.

Thanks for such a thoughtful review and for being part of this book tour.

Marion said...

I loved your very thoughtful review of this book which I can't wait to read. I have problems with the "wisdom to know the difference". I need that inner clarity and many times in different situations that clarity is hard for me to find.

I'm so happy you are continuing your fight for your mother with Mort...I've been catching up on your posts. I also hope you've been able to find some relief for that terrible back pain.

May 2011 be kinder to you, dear friend!

Shadow said...

sounds like an excellent book. i need to read it! thanks for the tip.

Hope said...

I appreciate your review because I've looked at this book several times online uncertain as to whether to buy it or not. Now I will!

TechnoBabe said...

I do so like the way you describe acceptance. As I understand it, I can stop fighting something but I do look around for a way to change it. If that means changing how I view it, then so be it.

Gabriella Moonlight said...

I have always referred to the Serenity Prayer as my barometric scale for knowing what to do...

Sometimes I have to let go and accept...that give me the serenity I need, it sadly does not take the pain away but it allows me the peace to walk through it.

Know that so many love you and are here!
xo

Patricia said...

Wonderful post! The Serenity prayer is my mantra...often just said over and over to quick the turmoil in my crazy head. I will search out this book.

Guinevere said...

Eileen is a friend of mine and I'm glad to see recovery folks are finding this book.

One of my favorite aspects was her inclusion of a recovering Buddhist monk's perspective:

http://guineveregetssober.com/buddhism-meets-12-steps/

thanks for your review, Christine. --G

Nana Jo said...

Your wonder review has made me want to seek out this book. The difference between accepting circumstances without fighting back or creating change is something I have struggled with for a long time. I love this line " Letting go is not giving up." Wow. That really resonates!

Magpie said...

I hope all is well and that you're okay...

The Bug said...

Me too - missing you Chris!

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