NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 29 — Serenity Now!
So I was looking at the NY Times online yesterday and noticed an article about a skeptic who has reversed his position about the originator of the Serenity Prayer. The Serenity Prayer is a mainstay in Alcoholics Anonymous. The prayer opens:
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.
Apparently, the man who edits the Yale Book of Quotations did not believe that Reinhold Niebuhr was the originator of the prayer as has been widely held for decades. Niebuhr was an American protestant theologian/philosopher. If you have not read any Niebuhr, I highly recommend it, but leave your dictionary by your side, because you will need to refer to it regularly. Niebuhr is not easy reading, but if you spend some time with it, there is much to gain from his thoughts.
So apparently, this editor has been persuaded by a recent discovery by a researcher at Duke University. The Dukie found an old student newsletter dated to the 1930s that credits Niebuhr with authorship of the prayer. The version of the prayer in the newsletter reads:
Father, 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.
I can’t help but wonder why the Yale editor was so averse to attributing the prayer to Niebuhr when there already was ample evidence to credit Niebuhr. I kind of prefer the older version over the more common one. I like the notion that we should take courage to try to change things before we accept what cannot be helped.