Wednesday, October 14, 2009


The philosopher Epictetus (AD 55 - 135) had some truly brilliant advice for those who have the world weighing down on them. In principle, he argued that people should learn to accept what they cannot control, and to do something about the things that they can control. Funnily enough, this principle is found in something that we know today as Reinhold Niebuhr's (1892-1971) Serenity Prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference ..." This prayer is often quoted, but without the rest of it, which I think is truly beautiful:

"... Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen."

There's a huge amount of freedom that comes when we realise that we are not in control; in short, when we realise that we are not God. This is not to negate free will, but to accept that the greatest freedom comes, paradoxically, when we relinquish our freedom. After all, it is written that those who lose their lives will be found.

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