. . . And Wisdom to Know the Difference

Apr 8, 2016

Image: A person standing alone on a ridge at sunset

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.

- Reinhold Niebuhr

We’ve all heard the serenity prayer at least once. For each of us, at different points in our lives, a different part will stick out. Perhaps it’s the serenity to accept what cannot be changed when facing a difficult yet unchanging situation. When facing an obstacle or a transition, maybe it’s the courage to change what you can in order to overcome the obstacle. For many, though, the toughest part is the wisdom. How can we know what requires our acceptance and what demands our courage?

In my post Let It Go I talked about how to move on from a relationship that is clearly toxic. Today, though I want to think about how to know when to move on when something is simply not working. No one may have done anything wrong, no one is the “bad guy,” and yet it’s just not working. How can we know whether this is a situation demanding our courage to change what we can or whether it’s a time to accept that this cannot be fixed?

All relationships have ups and downs. Sometimes a relationship is challenging due to external stressors or changes in the structure between the partners. If we decide to leave a relationship anytime that it becomes challenging, we will never be in a relationship for very long. Being able to work through difficulties is key to lasting relationships and the courage to stick with something challenging is often the most useful traits.

And yet sometimes we find ourselves in a relationship that started out with lots of ups but is now mostly downs. Or, we find ourselves in a down so low that we can’t see how we would ever make it out. Even worse, we may see in our partner’s behavior during this down things that make it hard for us to see how we could stay with them having experienced this part of them. Whatever the experience, sometimes what we are called to do is accept that this relationship cannot be changed to one that works for us and then find the courage to move forward.

So how do you know? For me, I ask my heart/gut/intuition. I check in with myself and ask “Can I see myself loving them on the other side of this?” I look to feel out whether this seems to be a downward spiral or just a temporary lull. I ask my heart whether this is still what I need. Sometimes, I’ll do experiments where I entertain the idea of ending things or of staying and see which one makes me feel the most centered. I’ll ask myself “If this person never changes and this is the new status quo, could I be happy here?” And if I can’t, what would I need? And could they give that?

At the end of the day, there’s no certain way to know whether the answer is to leave or to go. But asking yourself to truly consider both and to give each a fair shake gives you the best chance of seeing for yourself what the right choice might be.

May you have the serenity, courage, and wisdom you need for these decisions. And if you find yourself struggling, send me a message as talking these decisions over with a thought partner can sometimes be the easiest way to find your path.

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