Is it in your control?

I’m sharing these thoughts with the full realization that there may be ignorance behind them. With that in mind, I don’t just plan to share quotes, but as I learn to develop a writing habit, and style, and find my voice, it feels like a good starting point. These thoughts are more for me than for anyone else.

Most of what I share has been said before in 100 different ways. I’ll always try to give credit where it’s due, but as my brother, Channun likes to say, “Everything that is, was, and always will be.” The thing is, one never knows when we’ll actually hear something for the first time, or how many times we have to hear it until it becomes a part of us.

The serenity prayer was something I heard often growing up.

“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.”

I found it incredibly confusing because the context and the words never seemed to match. It was just something you said when you got angry or upset. As someone who used to have a short fuse and get very angry, with no outlet but the defenseless drywall, the holes in the walls were the result of not knowing how to handle my anger about things that were outside of my control. It was always a buildup, never just one thing, and often something entirely different from the stimulus of that moment.

As I delve deeper into philosophy, which I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of, the beauty and wisdom in the words are profound and very relevant to me today. The ability to see what I can and cannot control, as well as my ability to choose my response, is amazing. To ‘mind the gap’ and be aware enough in the moment of being reactive to stop and see what’s under my control, and change my perception. It sounds so simple but is so incredibly hard. It’s a lesson I get to practice daily.

As Marcus Aurelius wrote to himself nearly 2000 years ago, in a journal that was never meant for anyone but himself:

“Choose not to be harmed and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed, and you haven’t been.”

~Marcus Aurelius

Or, maybe Shakespeare said it better:

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

~William Shakespeare. Act 2, Scene 2 in Hamlet.

For me, my favorite interpretation of this wisdom comes from the single most qualified man to reflect on this advice and who was very heavily influenced by the Stoic philosopher, Victor Frankl. In short, he was a prisoner in not only a Nazi internment camp but the one that was considered to be the most horrific, Auschwitz. Like so many others he lost everything and everyone close to him except for that one thing that no one could take from him, “The last of the human freedoms: to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

~Viktor E. Frankl

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