In One Dress, One Day, José (Pepe) craves a
“Despite the hour, he got up to brew his first espresso of the day. As he rinsed and wiped the heavy aluminum cafetera, Pepe poured his feelings out to the bird. Groggy, he still enjoyed a drag, but always without a drink. He had to stay sober because there were too many times that he could not remember what had happened. Alfonsa did remember, though.
The famous AA prayer hung painted on a plate in the narrow hallway between the bedroom and bathroom.”
The Serenity Prayer is the common name for a prayer written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971).
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.
Niebuhr first wrote the prayer for a Massachussets sermon as early as 1934 and first published it in 1951 in a US magazine column. The prayer spread through Niebuhr’s sermons and church groups in the 1930s and 1940s and was adopted and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous.
The prayer has appeared in many versions. The most well-known form is a late version, as it includes a reference to grace not found before 1951.
God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Another version: O God and Heavenly Father,
Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
The earliest recorded reference to the prayer is a diary entry from 1932 by Winnifred Crane Wygal, a pupil and collaborator of Niebuhr. Wygal was a longtime YWCA official and all early recorded usages were from women involved in volunteer or educational activities connected to the YWCA.
The earliest printed reference, in 1936, mentions that during a speech,
a Miss Mildred Pinkerton “quotes the prayer,” as if to indicate it
was already in a circulation known to the reporter, or that Pinkerton relayed
it as a quote, without mentioning its authorship
NOTE: The prayer has also been falsely attributed to a variety of other authors.
EPICETUS, a Greek philosopher, wrote:
“Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as
it happens. Some things are up to us and some things are not up to us. Our
opinions are up to us, and our impulses, desires, aversions—in short, whatever
is our own doing. Our bodies are not up to us, nor are our possessions, our
reputations, or our public offices, or, that is, whatever is not our own
SOLOMON IBN GABIROL, an 11th-century Jewish philosopher wrote:
And they said: At the head of all understanding – is realizing what is
and what cannot be, and the consoling of what is not in our power to change.
The philosopher WW. BARTLEY juxtaposes Niebuhr’s prayer with a Mother Goose rhyme (1695) expressing a similar sentiment:
For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it. Spurious attributions
Use by twelve-step recovery
The prayer became more widely known after being brought to the attention of AA in 1941 by an early member, who came upon it in a “routine New York Herald Tribune obit.” AA’s staff liked the prayer and had it printed in modified form and handed around. It has been part of the group’s personality ever since. Grapevine, The International Journal of Alcoholics Anonymous, identified Niebuhr as the author (January 1950, pp. 6–7), and the AA web site continues to identify Niebuhr as the author.
A slightly different version of the prayer has been adopted by twelve-step groups:
God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
the courage to change the things we can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
It can be said by anyone of any denomination, almost any faith. The character Pepe has a copy hanging on a wall in his home.
Dios mío, concédeme
para aceptar las cosas que no puedo cambiar;
Para canbiar aquellas cosas que puedo ;
Para reconocer la diferencia