Everyone has probably heard the ‘Serenity Prayer” that is used in many of the well known 12 step programs. It says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
One of the relationship classes at my church uses a slightly altered version. It says: “God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change; the courage to change the one I can; and the wisdom to know –it’s me!”
This version of the prayer highlights the basic principle that we all know about relationships: the only person in a tussle that we can actually change is us!
Conflicts arise in every relationship. The tendency is to focus on what the other guy or gal needs to change. Somehow it is so much easier to see the splinter in our mate or friend’s eye than to confront the tree trunk stuck in our own (Matthew 7:3).
Although it definitely “takes two to tango” and both parties share the responsibility for resolving any conflict, it is a waste of time to focus on the list of reasons why the other guy is wrong.
People only change if they “see the light” or “feel the heat.” And creating those kinds of pressure is the Lord’s job, not ours.
In order to achieve the relational peace that we all crave, we have to start with aligning our will to our heavenly Father’s. A practical, positive step might be to pause in front of a good mirror. The one in the bathroom will do. Let’s stop focusing on any externals, and use that reflection to stare deep down into our own hearts.
What attitude has to go? After a clash, what action should we take? What poor communication habit should we break? How can we apply grace to the situation? Have we prayed through our anger?
As we stand before that mirror, we need to find the courage to face ourselves and propose real, personal change. Serenity in a relationship only comes when we are courageous enough to change ourselves…first!