September: Positive Action

"acceptance vs action"

by dr. susan nettleton

“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.”  These lines from the Serenity Prayer are a timeless antidote to modern anxiety.   We live in a world with a seemingly endless supply of crisis and emergencies. We are subjected to the constant stream of immediate news about frightening “developing situations”; emotions are often a roller-coaster ride. Whatever stress or worry we may have about our personal lives becomes magnified. We easily lose perspective.  We can find it harder and harder to have a healthy, confident, positive outlook on life.  As uncertainty increases, fear undermines competency as well as faith. Life’s events have a cumulative effect on the human psyche; things pile up when we don’t know how (or don’t take the time) to process and sort things out.

Our feelings can overwhelm us and we forget that there are some events in life that we simply cannot control.  But just because we do not have control over all life’s events does not mean that we are helpless.  These prayerful words simplify this process.  They remind us that, rather than being paralyzed by fear, action is often the solution to difficulty.  Some things we need to face with courage and act.  At other times, there is no action that is possible or appropriate for us, so our solution is acceptance.  The faculty of wisdom does lie within us and is strengthened as we use it, as we clarify, again and again, where we need acceptance and where we need action.  Above all, there is the activity of prayer itself, timeless, and not impeded by life’s upheavals.



Sometimes we feel so stuck that we are almost paralyzed. As Hamlet says, we have "lost the motive for action." At these times, we feel torn by indecision and self doubt; we feel that we just don't know what to do or even how to begin. Sitting on the fence can be the hardest spot in the world. But we can only postpone things for so long. One day, through no fault and no virtue of our own, we find ourselves released from our inertia—it happened when we were looking the other way. Suddenly, we discover our freedom to act, to be decisive, to break through the bonds that have held us in place so long. Perhaps something deep inside of us is released and we are free to spring into action. Or perhaps some outer condition or situation changes and the change produces a corresponding transformation within us. Regardless of how it happens, inwardly or outwardly, we have the instantaneous realization that we have been released from frustration into fulfillment. We know it and our joy is made tangible.



As we experience these last few weeks of summer, let's be happy to allow the new and joyous energy of fall to begin to quicken in our hearts and minds. Already we can feel a new stirring of life in the air. The time is here to reawaken ourselves from the gentle laid-back summer feelings, to move forward boldly into the good that is already at hand. We don't need to linger in summer's malaise—act now. Do what is set before us. What have we held back doing, waiting 'til the real fall comes. Do it now! As we put ourselves into motion right now, we align ourselves with the new season's vitality. We come alive in exciting and unexpected ways. Don't wait for something to happen. We can each be the agent of change, initiating a new way for something to come into this life now.