For every problem under the sun,
There is a solution or there is none.
If there’s a solution go and find it.
If there isn’t, never mind it.
During this past year, I have thought a lot about my weaknesses. For instance, I have the inclination to hide in the garage and eat a bag of Twix Minis, not that I have done that recently or anything. I have also seen in myself a tendency to judge others based on my own insecurities. One of my most tenacious flaws, however, is to worry too much about things I cannot change. I have been learning that my happiness depends upon choosing to let go of worry, anxiety and the need to have things my way.
When I was going through the challenges of last November, I could not think clearly, I could not feel the Spirit and my body was tense. There is a certain feeling that comes over me when I fester on negative things. It feels like venom in my back and shoulder muscles. I now realize that these unpleasant sensations come when I fight reality. And to make things worse, when I fight reality, I always lose.
Let me give you a few examples. Last November, when my suburban would not start in the church parking lot, it made no difference how upset I was nor how much I protested, “My car should start.” The reality was that my car would not start.
When I sliced my hand on the sharp porcelain of the broken toilet tank lid, I found myself agitated. “I shouldhave been more careful.” But, no matter how much I chastised myself for letting it happen, the reality was that it had happened.
When my little munchkins poured a bottle of concentrated dish detergent on the floor, no amount of complaining that “my kids should not have done this” seemed to make it go away. And although I was forceful and eloquent in my argument, I found myself losing again to reality.
In order to handle these problems appropriately, I needed to accept reality (it is what it is) and ask the question “what can I do now?” Sometimes there is a real solution and other times the only thing I can do is choose a positive mental and emotional response.
My natural tendency, however, is to be mentally and emotionally combative. I have a persuasive dialogue going on in my mind—as if I could change reality by simply being right about how things should be. And when something persists in not being the way I think it should be, I sometimes become frustrated, angry, critical or even use it as an excuse to do things I should not do.But the scriptures tell me to “put off” these natural man tendencies, and choose instead to yield, to be submissive, to be meek, to be humble, to be patient, to fill my heart with love and willingness. I will never be truly happy or effective as long as I allow things I cannot control to control me.
In one of my all-time favorite books, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven R. Covey says that our concerns are many. They can include our physical health, our children, our employment, politics, presidential elections, the economy and many other things. As we look at these concerns, he says, “It becomes apparent that there are some things over which we have no real control and others that we can do something about.”
He encourages us to spend our time and emotional energy on the things over which we have direct influence. As we consistently do so, our ability to affect the wider world around us will grow. But if we become disillusioned by things we cannot change, we curtail our ability to make a difference. Imagine how much more we could accomplish if all of our energy were put toward useful ends, rather than being squandered in futility.
The first step is submitting to reality as a baseline from which to interact with the world. I have found that when I do this, I still experience a negative initial response to things I do not like. But with the help of prayer, a positive mental dialogue and affirmations, I am able to release the bad feelings. And I try to respond quickly with the upbeat inquiry “What can I do now?”
Serenity is not complacency. It is not lowering my standards. It is not ignoring the suffering of others. Nor is it losing touch with my own vision of what I hope to accomplish. Rather, it means I am willing. I am willing to experience the mess and muddle of mortality. I am willing to surrender myself to the growth that comes from not having everything my way. I am willing to accept that other people are in a process of learning and development and are not perfect. I am willing to align myself with the love and flow of blessings in the universe that come to me bountifully on God’s timetable and in his way.
Over the past year, as I have sought to keep my emotional energy positive and free-flowing, I have begun to understand more deeply the scripture found in Matthew 11:30 which reads, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly of heart and ye shall find rest to your souls.”
Truly there is rest when we relinquish to the Savior, burdens that are not ours to carry.
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.