This morning my Saturday morning group talked about acceptance. I love the Serenity Prayer, which to me sums up one of life’s conundrums:
“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.”
The conundrum, of course, is the wisdom to know the difference.
A few of my friends were talking about accepting all of life as it comes along. Ah, oil spill in the Gulf? Accept it – we don’t know the Bigger Plan. Elongated metatarsal causing your foot to collapse – ah, part of the plan. People acting like idiots at work? Smile and move on.
Sometimes we DO need to smile and move on (and that last is probably as good an example as any). But I also believe in “act, or be acted upon” and in the importance of social activism.
The issue of course is “when am I acting for the higher good (my own or life’s) and when is my Superhero Ego getting in the way?
I think I know a few ways to help discern the answer.
The first two are sorta obvious. But the last one is hard for me and is likely, due to my innate impatience, the most important. Especially as it’s the one I least practice.
I’m pretty good with money and so (in a self-congratulatory way) I often read articles and books about it and feel good that I am staying on track. One often given nostrum is that if you feel compelled to buy something to walk out of the store (or, as is often the case for me, close your browser) and give it three days. Still really want it? Well, then sally forth!
There are surely situations in which I should take that same advice about my urge to speak up! to speak out! and gosh darn it to make SURE you know what I think! I think they call that “biting your tongue” or “counting to 10” and it’s not something I practice often enough.
It seems to me like so many people are on one or the other “wrong sides” of this issue:
People like me jump into the fray without perhaps thinking things through, hearing all sides and giving things time to work out.
The upside of this is that we are passionate, we care, and whether or not prematurely we “put our money where our mouths are.”
The downside is sometimes we say or do dumb things that don’t help the situation, some of which, alas, make things worse.
Then there are the more “Type B” personality people who perhaps don’t jump in – not wanting to make a mistake, they sit back, think it over, don’t want to embarrass themselves or others and think they “will get to it in good time.” Except — they don’t. So the petition goes unsigned, the words to a coworker who just told a racist joke stay in their heads, not spoken and the opportunity to make a difference passes them by.
The upside to this is that they hardly ever offend anyone, dont’ regularly make asses of themselves and when they DO think things through and get into action their actions probably have more backing.
The downside is that they don’t make the difference they could.
One other thing on this topic is I’ve seen how in some cases I can immediately tell that acceptance, not the action I just took, was likely the better choice – oops! there’s an amend owed. But sometimes it takes years or decades.
And so often we don’t really know the Rest of the Story as Paul Harvey was fond to say. We are the blind men with the elephant – now thinking we’ve found a fan, now a snake, now a wall – not realizing we’re touching the ear, tail or body of an elephant (or as someone said this morning, maybe on AN elephant who is part of a whole herd).
So I say the Serenity prayer. And I figure God made me the action-oriented, speak now, save-the-day Big Sister type that I am for a reason – I just wish I had more wisdom. But that’s where the prayer and meditation come in.
How about you? Is it easy for you to tell when to hold ’em, and when to fold ’em and when to lay your cards down? Do you err on the side of saying/doing too much or too little? Are you okay with that? What helps you figure out what to do? I really would like to know!