by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey
There is a prayer that goes like this, “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.” That’s the Serenity Prayer. It’s famous in recovery circles, but I believe it holds treasures for us all.
I recently heard a woman on the radio telling how she applies the Serenity Prayer to relationships. She said she has finally grown into the wisdom that she can’t change people. By the sound of her voice, I could tell she was advanced in years. That didn’t surprise me. The wisdom to realize we can’t change others usually takes a lifetime to acquire. I’m learning, but I’m not there yet.
Trying to change others has a multitude of titles. Fixer, enabler, rescuer, nagger, fault-finder, and micro-manager, just to name a few. I have been guilty of the first three. I have been a fixer/enabler/rescuer in some of my personal relationships. It’s no secret that I have a hard time watching those I love struggle. I forget how God used my difficulties to rescue me from myself. Had anyone else been able to step in and fix things for me, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. But when I love someone and see them in need, I want to fix their problems.
Trouble is, I don’t honestly know what their needs are. I’m just throwing band-aids on internal bleeds. That’s because I can only see surface issues while God sees heart issues. When I try to fix their surface needs, I am often blocking Him from addressing their real needs.
I am also creating a false dependency and tarnishing the relationship. By stepping into a role I was never meant to have (savior), I will inevitably frustrate and disappoint them. I have damaged relationships with people I treasured this way. My intentions were always good, but I was meddling in something that was not my job in the first place. That job belongs to Jesus because He is called to be their Savior, not me.
Why do I air my embarrassing junk for the world to see? Because I know trying to change people is a universal issue. And in Christian circles, rescuing feels like its the Jesus thing to do. After all, we are told if we give a cup of water in Jesus name, it’s the same as giving it to Him. So how do we tell the difference?
I am starting to recognize fear as my “error indicator light”. When I swoop in and try to meet needs because I am afraid for them, that is not Jesus directed. Jesus never motivates us with fear. He leads us with peace.
So if I am need meeting because I am afraid for them, I am not giving them a cup of water in Jesus’ name. I am serving them up a cup of Cris because I am secretly afraid Jesus won’t be big enough to take care of them. Sad but true. Not surprisingly, it seems all roads lead back to trusting the Lord.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. God, grant me the trust in you to stop all efforts to rescue, fix, enable, nag, fault-find, criticize, micro-manage, or attempt to control others. Not their behaviors, not their attitudes, not the way they look, talk, walk, not anything. Help me to trust you to be big enough to change whatever needs changing with them, and with me. Amen.