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.
Many of us are familiar with this beautiful prayer, and I happened to come across it soon after writing last week’s post on hyper-responsibility. It struck me how these words sum up so much of what those with OCD struggle with, and it can be easily related to hyper-responsibility. While there is no doubt we can all benefit from accepting the things we cannot change, it is especially important for those with obsessive-compulsive disorder, as this acceptance is necessary for recovery. In Dan’s case, he needed to accept the fact that not only was he not responsible for the well-being of others, this goal was out of his control.
To me, the next line, Courage to change the things I can, is so meaningful in regards to OCD. I know firsthand how difficult therapy was for Dan, and I have connected with many other people who have talked about the immense challenges that come with treatment for OCD. I can honestly say that those with the disorder who are fighting it are some of the most courageous people out there. This is one of those things that is so hard for those of us who don’t suffer from OCD to understand, and while I may not totally comprehend the depth of suffering that comes with OCD, I know it is real. To engage full force in therapy, whether in regards to hyper-responsibility or any other aspect of the disorder, is nothing short of courageous.
And wisdom to know the difference. Ah, now this can be a tricky one, especially in regards to hyper-responsibility. There are those in our society who don’t feel any connection to others, and may not even take responsibility for themselves. Theirs is an “every man for himself” attitude. Many of those with OCD, as we know, are at the opposite end of the spectrum, feeling responsible for everyone and everything in the world. So how do we know where that “happy medium” lies? How can we care about others and be contributing members of society without feeling totally responsible for everyone? How do we find that wisdom to know the difference between what we can and cannot change? This is an ongoing issue, and I appreciate all those who shared their insight with comments on my last post.
There are no easy answers to these questions, and even when we find them, the answers may very well be different for all of us. Maybe the best we can do is to truly care for all aspects of ourselves, including fostering and nurturing our relationships with those around us. When we do this, perhaps serenity will follow.