Apr 21 2014

Paul Williams



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Acceptance, Patience



One of the most powerful scenes in the movie “Network” was Peter Finch playing a disillusioned broadcaster screaming that he was “mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore!”  It earned him an Oscar.

Rosa Parks courageous refusal to give up her seat to a white woman on a Montgomery Alabama bus is celebrated as a seminal moment in the birth of the CIvil Rights Movement

Life saving discovery’s in medicine may be traced to brilliant minds refusing to believe that polio and small pox were just part of life.

While we all celebrate such aggressive and revolutionary acts, I find great value in the occasional choice of passivity and acceptance.  The fine art of “Letting it be” is a useful option.

For the last twenty-four years I’ve followed some sage advice about how to deal with things in this world that I can and cannot change.  I ask for help.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

That legendary prayer offers bite sized instruction that’s easy to digest. It’s a beautiful entry level mantra for living with unresolved problems.  It’s the perfect blueprint for dealing with those problematic parts of life that can’t be changed. A great prayer, I use it often.

“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems” states an iconic recovering doctor in the same journal where I first read the prayer.   Certainly there are things in this world we’d all love to change but can’t, so it makes sense to pray for the ability to comfortably accept that fact.

It’s the second line of the prayer that fascinates me. “Courage to change the things I can.”   That’s where I find the wiggle room that requires a little discussion.

Just because I can change something doesn’t mean it’s the best, right action. That moment of choice is one I’m trying to be more conscious of.  What are the unintended consequences of my interfering.

Our first affirmation, “Something needs to change and it’s probably me” points me in the direction of my real work.  Can I fix the problem by fixing something in my own behavior? That’s usually where the solution lies for me.

Of course there’s a huge variety of “unsettling situations”, (I’m suddenly imagining Daffy Duck saying that), people and scenarios that can spin us out of control in a heartbeat.  Behavior that can quickly morph mellow Paulie into the irate prosecutor or sulking victim.     And that quickly, peace of mind is a thing of the past.

Once I become focused on the problem and fully enmeshed with the source of my displeasure I can say goodbye to the comfort of calm. I like that.  The comfort of calm. Sometimes the way back to the path of peace is simple acceptance. “Not my job to fix this.” is a happy exit from the drama. A bumper sticker band aid usually works as well.  “Live and let Live.”

Still, there are black and white issues that demand our involvement.  The safety of a child.  A drunken friend who needs to be relieved of his car keys.   But, often the ability to accept life on life’s terms and back away, allowing fellow travelers to learn from their mistakes, process their own problems and evolve without my barking instruction is a gift to me and to them.

Acceptance can be the key to a quiet mind and will sometimes open that stuck door that leads us back to the comfort of another day lived in Gratitude and Trust



Paul Williams

Paul Williams is a singer, songwriter, actor, recovery advocate and has been a fixture on the American cultural scene since the seventies. His book Gratitude and Trust is now available.