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Friday, 1 September 2017

Acceptance: Serenity, Courage and Wisdom

There are still some Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971) words on my desktop screen which are better 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." The complete prayer is longer (eg, Wiki). I am always impressed by the beauty of his words.

The 1st and 2nd part is knowing what, when and whom to fight for in life (acceptance and courage). Changing things in life often feels like "fighting". Fighting drains your (limited) energy and should thus be used wisely. The 3rd part is about the right - or wrong - cause for fighting, ie, the Why.

These words have a lot to do with the sayings about choosing your battles (wisely). I noticed an alleged Sun Tzu quote: "If a battle cannot be won, do not fight it". The ancient book The Art of War (c. 512 BC) by the Chinese general, military strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu (544 BC - 496 BC) does not seem to mention this quote. However, it could have been one of his quotes.

There are many battles to pick: with your kids, your parents, your partner, or with your colleagues at work, with your teammates, or during your exams. From a statistical point of view, you cannot win all of your battles. Some battles are also more important than others. Hence, the saying choose your battles (wisely). 

The British politician and writer Tony Benn (1925-2014) also made some marvellous and relevant quotes: “There is no final victory, as there is no final defeat. There is just the same battle. To be fought, over and over again. So toughen up, bloody toughen up.” (#17). And also: “Whether you win or lose a battle doesn’t matter, the question is: did you fight it hard enough?” (#5). Or: “There are times when you have to get out of trouble and times when you have to get into trouble.” (#14).

The Tony Benn quotes illustrate the importance of applying wisdom in knowing the difference. I am not sure if he knew the difference himself given his following - astute rather than wise - quote: “A faith is something you die for, a doctrine is something you kill for. There is all the difference in the world.” (#1). It's also one of the pillars of my concept on the 7 Belief systems.

If there's any problem with Reinhold Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer then it's in the suggested sequence. It takes wisdom to accept that some things will never change. It takes wisdom to know when to apply courage. Wisdom is at the heart (ie, in the middle) of my concept of the 7 Belief systems, and its Knowledge and Power dimensions.

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) asserts that love is crucial in fighting for change. Quote #1: “Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.” Quote #2: “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it--always.”

Love is the only Belief system outside the Knowledge and Power dimension of the 7 Belief systems. Perhaps Love and Wisdom are somehow connected. To be continued.

Love Is All (1975) by Roger Glover & Guests - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2



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