Don’t ask for serenity. Just change what must be altered.

Don’t ask for serenity. Just get on with it. (John Leech Sketch Archives 1841-1864)

As we gather at the edge of the cliff, you might be tempted to say, “Grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

Well, don’t. That sentiment got us to the cliff. And that is not what the original author, Reinhold Niebuhr, had in mind. Here is what he wrote: “Give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.”

Consider the difference. The new version asks for courage to change the things you can, whereas the original calls for courage to change what must be altered. The one allows for choice. The other demands action.

The original version begins as an action statement, a warning that some things must be altered. And the new version? It begins with a plea to accept, to give in serenely.

To our detriment, we have adopted the wrong version.

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.