God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
I pray this prayer every morning, reflecting on the things I need to accept, and the things I can change or need to change but am, for whatever reason, reluctant to or require help to change. I also reflect on the things that confuse me as to whether they fall into the former or latter category. Some things are easy for me to accept, while others, not so much.
I am in a season where some of my loved ones are aging and their lives, which I hold dear, are coming to their natural close, so this has been at the top of my mind lately. In my mind, I accept it as true that all lives one day end, and that time moves only forward. Therefore, we all age, and it’s unlikely I’ll be physically fit again myself, though I am improving currently. My emotions, though, beg to differ. They tell me that acceptance is the same as “giving up”. In this case, my emotions, or my heart, happens to be wrong, and my mind has the right view of it.
Outwardly, a person in a stage of acceptance and one who is merely giving up may appear similar. Both cease to struggle, they move on to the next challenge, and they refuse to devote more energy to the issue at hand (though I suspect the person who gives up looks back more often than the one who accepts). Inwardly, however, these two are decidedly different. Acceptance is marked by a certain kind of joy that comes from the knowledge that things are “as they should be” even though they are not necessarily what the person wants. Giving up, on the other hand, is marked by an inner disposition of regret at best, or despair at worst.
The interior result of acceptance must come from a different interior action. Acceptance is a recognition of the reality of a situation and deciding – a positive, definite action – not to continue to pursue a certain course or objective. For example, I no longer consider walking in the annual charity walks like I used to, since the distance is too far for me, compared to my daily walks. In this example, giving up might look like declaring that I can’t do any walking at all and making excuses for why, like the fox in Aesop’s Fable, The Fox and the Grapes.
Acceptance (versus giving up) does involve the end of a dream, which means grief is mixed in. Because of this grief, telling the difference between the two is not always so clear or easy to see. Acceptance brings a sense of peace, perhaps even relief that the struggle is over. Giving up is marked by resentment, regret, anger, and other emotions that can be a normal part of grief. Perhaps these two dispositions – acceptance and giving up – sometimes even come together, in waves, and we pass back and forth between them as we move through our grief. This is how it was for me when my father passed away.
For me, acceptance of infertility has come through the realization that I will neither give birth, nor adopt, nor foster children. In my home, any “kids” present will either be someone else’s or have fur and paws. Along with this, through acceptance, I have the sure and certain knowledge that I am still fruitful, nurturing, supportive, and life-giving in other ways – even though I can’t be a parent directly. I have nephews, nieces, and godchildren. I have friends and family, pets, and community. I have hope.
While giving up would look like abandoning hope that God still has a use for me, a purpose for me, and a plan with a role that only I can play, acceptance recognizes that God will use for good whatever I permit Him to use – how He does this is His to decide. Where giving up sees only a closed door, and grapes that are out of reach, acceptance, by contrast, looks for other doors, windows, and hallways – strawberries instead of grapes, perhaps – and another way to keep moving forward.
This post was written by contributor Delsonora.