In Spite of: Another Look at the Serenity Prayer

(This blog was inspired by another blog entitled “Changes You Can Make” at

Thank you, Trent, for the inspiration. I turned my thoughts into a speech and my Toastmasters club loved it.)

Changing our attitude and perspective makes a world of difference. Our attitude determines our altitude.

Many of us are familiar with what is known as “The Serenity Prayer”:

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.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did,
this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

On November 4, 2008, the man who was the unlikeliest presidential candidate a year ago became this country’s President-Elect. Many people said Barack Obama didn’t have enough money, enough experience or enough clout to achieve such a feat. Regardless of your personal opinions about him, he gave us a message of hope, he was beyond determined, he carried himself with integrity, and as a result, 52% of the voting population.

How did that happen to a candidate who no one thought would win?

What if Obama had agreed with all the pundits and the naysayers who said he couldn’t beat Hillary Clinton or John McCain? What if he believed that he couldn’t do it? What if he looked at all that was going on in the world today and decided he wasn’t cut out for the job, let alone the campaign trail?

What if he hadn’t gave it his all, and inspired so many of us to vote and impact change?

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that our present circumstances, what we see right now, and what other people say about us is all that will ever be. I know that I have dreams and visions inside of me that keep me determined to reach my goals, but you can’t live life without experiencing setbacks. I want to share a brief story with you.

I spent years as a junior-level technical writer, even after I qualified to be a senior writer. I moved from project to project for a few years without a real “home,” Last year I expressed interest in a promotion. I had endured countless layoffs of coworkers, several mergers, and was on my 4th manager in 2 years. I had to look past some of the odds:

  • Management changed 3 times in 13 months
  • Even though our company merger was completed a year ago, the two former companies still had not formalized new job descriptions for my position
  • 2 former managers told me it would be a “miracle” to get promoted because there are still layoffs going on
  • I had not been assigned to one steady project where my work could consistently be evaluated

I had to find a way to convince her and her boss that I deserved a promotion, and I did win that promotion this past spring. I’m very grateful for my raise, recognition, and respect that comes with it.But what if I believed that I was stuck being a junior writer with junior pay? What if I had not had the courage to move forward and plead my case?

I’m not trying to deceive you about the challenges of life, and make it seem as if it’s easy to have a positive attitude. I’m preaching to myself here, not just you guys. So I’m going to give you a few of my personal examples of ways that you can turn discontentment and disappointments in your life around:

Fact: My marriage was unsuccessful.

But in spite of that: I can take the lessons I learned, which in turn make me a stronger young woman today, and also make me compassionate toward others who are struggling in the same ways. My experiences will make me empathetic when I am helping others cope.

Fact: Money is tight and I have to work more than one part-time job in addition to my full-time job to make up the shortfall and stay afloat.

But in spite of that: I am learning time management, money management, and patience as I grow to financial independence and self-sufficiency. Being exposed to a variety of people also enables me the opportunity for networking.

Fact: I’m a single mother, and I don’t like going to the park (even though it’s around the corner and I pay for it), hearing a lot of noise, or doing kiddie activities. I could do without hearing Dora or Diego in the background of my living space. I’m not a nurturer by nature. I’m more task-oriented than anything.

But in spite of that: I can take some time with my daughter for one-on-one activities in the house, take her out occasionally (and other fam members do this too), and it will go a long way in bonding with her. I also enlist the support of my local family, friends, church family, and my neighbors. My child knows love and feels love from me.

The road to contentment is a journey. I am on it. There are many things I can point to in my life that I am not satisfied with, but I cannot lose sight of the blessings in my life, either. We cannot experience joy without ever having endured pain. When you go through pain your life, ask yourself, “What is the purpose?” Our pain is not in vain. There is a purpose.

Maya Angelou has a new book called “Letter to My Daughter.” She has no biological daughters, but in her 80 years of life, she has gone through some things that she felt she should share with her “virtual” daughters before she leaves this earth. In her book, she never finishes a story telling the reader what to do, or what the lesson was. She purposely wrote the book this way so that the reader can figure that our for herself.

In conclusion, we cannot stay stuck in the here and now. There are some aspects of our lives that seem hopeless, miserable, or frustrating. But if we could take the time to change our thinking and our perspective. Every situation and obstacle has a lesson or at the very least, a teachable moment. We need to find it, make it work for us, and then share it with others.