What I Cannot Change…..

by Carolyn on September 29, 2010

The serenity prayer reads:

God, grant us the…
Serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
Courage to change the things we can, and the
Wisdom to know the difference.       ~Reinhold Niebuhr

Such simple words that have transcended time and space because they describe at their very core what we all crave.

Serenity, courage and wisdom.

My mother introduced me to the song “What I Cannot Change” by LeAnn Rimes a couple of weeks ago.  She was considering using in a group dealing with family issues and wondered what I thought.  I listened to it while driving my son to hockey and by the end of the drive, he had asked to listen to it four times in a row.  I can’t say that I’ve ever been much of a fan of Lee Ann Rhimes, but this song does resonate.  Because in my experience, family issues often find themselves tunneling their way into every aspect of my life. Sometimes those issues can’t be fixed.  Sometimes they can. Sometimes they need to be fixed and sometimes the cost of fixing doesn’t outweigh the benefit of just…letting go.

But the line between acceptance and action can be thin and it’s usually hard to tell which needs what without that trifecta so many pray for.  Serenity, courage and wisdom.

The lyrics of this song are all moving, but the lines that really hit home for me were the ones right at it’s heart:

I don’t know my father
Or my mother well enough
It seems like every time we talk
We can’t get past the little stuff

The pain is self inflicting
I know it’s not good for my health
But it’s easier to please the world
Than to please myself

I found a video on youtube that not only plays the song but also shares personal stories that were recieved from fans based on their response to this song.  The only drawback is that the stories are so compelling that it’s difficult to really listen to the song while reading them.  Maybe try watching it twice – once while reading the stories and once with your eyes closed.  Just to hear.


PS – did you know that the serenity prayer also has an extended version?  I never knew that and it’s so beautiful!  I couldn’t resist posting it in it’s entirety.

God grant us the….
Serentity to accept the things we cannot change,
Courage to change the things we can, and the
Wisdom to know the difference
Patience for the things that take time
Appreciation for all the we have, and
Tolerance for those with different struggles
Freedom to live beyond the limitations of our past ways, the
Ability to feel your love for us and our love for each other and the
Strength to get up and try again even when we feel it is hopeless.


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 El September 30, 2010 at 8:45 am

Carolyn….Wow…thank you!!!!!! That moved me to tears. I have started saying the Serenity prayer to myself over the past few months when stuff starts to fall inward……there is something about those words that just calm me….repeating the words just seem to ground me…..gives me a few minutes to re-think and re-group and get ahold on my emotion-usually anger and impatience…it reminds me to do a little check in my head….”Ok..is this something that I can control? Is this something I need to deal with? No-..ok…..deep breath…let it go…and usually by the time I get through this little self-talk I’m calmer and harsh words aren’t spoken and feelings hurt and another day does not get ruined. Now I will have to learn the extended version!!!


2 Carolyn September 30, 2010 at 11:36 pm

Even just taking time to recite the prayer can give time enough to calm down a bit. But then to really *feel* the words. I love it. And the extended version was something I never even knew about! Wikipedia. What did we ever do without it? A warm welcome to you, El!


3 tammy September 30, 2010 at 9:37 am

Great post and video/song. The hairs on my arms tingled reading and listening to it. May have to add it to the ipod(I not a huge fan of hers either).


4 Carolyn September 30, 2010 at 11:37 pm

I doubt I’ll ever be downloading a full cd of hers, but I have to admit that I really do like this song. It’s already been added to my playlist. :)


5 Heather H October 1, 2010 at 12:28 am

Wise words. Your words resonated with me. Often we can’t change all the things in our life, especially when divorce, remarriage, stepfamilies are involved. Seek serenity, courage and wisdom within yourself. That’s the place I aim for. To tuck those three things in my own heart so I can weather whatever comes my way.

Great post. Thanks. xoxo Heather


6 Carolyn October 5, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Thank you, Heather! It’s great to hear from you!


7 Rev October 5, 2010 at 6:47 pm


I wish I found your blog a year ago. I know the feeling of trying to hold on to something (my family before the divorce), hoping that if I just squeeze my brain hard enough I can will the situation away. Letting go is very hard but holding on was exhausting.

Rev´s last blog post ..How to Heal Your Heart When Your Parents Divorce Continued


8 Carolyn October 5, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Thanks, Rev! It *can* be so hard to distinguish. When to let go, when to hold on. When to try to change things, when to accept the way they are. I always try to remind myself that when I feel like I’m expending more energy than I’m getting in return, it’s time to reassess the situation. Welcome. I hope to hear from you again!


9 Missy March 4, 2011 at 12:37 pm

I came across your blog today when searching for some guidance on the internet. I am a stepmom to two lovely children. They are very young. I have shared a life with them for three years now. I love their father dearly and want what is best for both their father and for them. The tension that has developed in raising them in a coparenting situation has become more stressful than I could have ever imagined. Their mother and I worked together at first without a hitch. I would even pick them up from her in “special situations” where an extra set of hands was needed. Time has changed all of that. Personally, I think she is going through a depression or something. She has harrassed us to the point of us breaking down and calling the police. She does it anonymously so that we can’t prove anything. The children comment that she cries all the time. She never calls to take care of things during normal hours. She always waits to take care of things between 9-10 at night when things are winding down for the night. I could list everything but it would not matter. The point is that there is very little chance of having a “normal” coparenting relationship with her. The kids need their father as often as possible because she has many issues that prevent her from being there for the children as she needs to be. I have felt so sorry for the children all along. After reading several of your posts, I feel even worse for them. I know that, while they put on a happy face for us, this impacts them. They are at our home half of the time. As things get worse with her, I have noticed changes though. We try to keep things calm and never talk about anything in front of them, but I’m sure that isn’t happening on the other end due to the emotional changes we are seeing. I guess I have a question in all of this…where is the line? I want what is best for these two little souls. I love them…but, where is the line? Meaning, do I let her destroy my marriage? They need both of their parents but how much is too much? I’m not trying to sound selfish. I’m just being realistic. She has made life hell. I know that there are two sides to every story. I know that their father has made her mad in situations, but her behavior has become criminal in nature and as such has created a great deal of tension within my own marriage. Also, the little girl is very young. She has only memories of me with her father…another split could only hurt them further…am I right? I’m just feeling a little desperate, lonely, helpless, guilty, and lost right now. You speak in such a way that you make me want to put my own stress aside and make sure the kids are okay. It just seems like a no win situation, but thanks for giving me some new insite through your blog.


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