Altogether too often what starts out as a simple disagreement can escalate quite quickly into a full-blown argument, sometimes with devastating repercussions. Sometimes a slight difference in opinion can bring up all sorts of grievances when each person is trying to convince the other that their point of view is correct. What is important to one person may not be important to the other and trying to bring another person around your way of thinking is interpreted as coercion. In times like this, unless it is a matter of life and death, the best thing to do is take a step back and decide for yourself is it really worth it?
The Wisdom of the Serenity Prayer
If you have ever been a member of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous then you are probably familiar with the Serenity Prayer which states:
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.
While this is great advice for recovering addicts, it is also great advice for anyone who is on the verge of an argument. Some things are just not worth fighting about. No one ever said life was going to be easy and free from arguments and disputes, but sometimes we just waste so much energy arguing about things we have no power over. A simple analysis of the Serenity Prayer can often help avoid the escalation of a disagreement into an argument.
Breaking Down the Serenity Prayer Phrase by Phrase
Whether or not you believe in a higher power should not really be an issue when analyzing the first line of the Serenity Prayer, but rather it entails having an understanding of the word serenity. To be serene means to step back from the chaos long enough to take a breath in order to determine if you really want to pursue this particular dispute. You need to be calm enough to analyze this rationally. Understand that you can never change another person but you can change yourself. This is the second line of the Serenity Prayer in a nutshell. In other words, accept the fact that you cannot change another person but as the third line goes on to say, sometimes you need enough courage to do something about the things you can change.
This may be a hard decision to make, especially when an in abusive relationship. You are never going to change the other person unless he or she is willing to change, and even then you are not doing the changing the other person is, which leads you to the very last line of the Serenity Prayer. It is up to you to be wise enough to know your limitations. You cannot change the other person but you can change the way you look at and react to things.
Taking a Step Back
Let’s face it; no two people are ever alike. It would be a pretty boring world if they were. It is human nature to have disagreements and disputes from time to time and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, it becomes problematic if we allow these disagreements to become heated and out of control. It is okay to ask for a few moments to think about something before you give a reply. In other words, you could say something to the effect of, “I need to think about this.”
It is also currently trendy to say, “Let’s just agree to disagree.” If, on the other hand, after having thought about the situation you discover that you have a moral or ethical obligation to take a stand, then it is okay to stand your ground. However, it is never okay to become physically or verbally abusive. If the disagreement has escalated this far take a step back and walk away. Remember, you cannot change the other person but you can change the way you react to him or her.
Is It Really Worth It?
At the best of times, relationships are emotionally charged. If they weren’t there would be something to worry about. That’s what relationships are all about – emotions. Knowing this at the very outset gives you the upper hand. Whether you are talking about a relationship with your mother or father, a sibling, a friend, a child or a significant other, it is always in your best interest to take the time to discover what is really important in your life. From time to time make a list of the things that are central to your very being. Start a second list and itemize some things which are important but you can live without. And finally, identify things in your life that you could live without.
The next time you find yourself getting into a heated discussion call to mind this list. If what you are disagreeing about is on list number one then, yes, it may be worth it to stand your ground. On the other hand, if the problem in question is on list number two, then perhaps you might just want to let it go. If you find what you are disagreeing about is on list number three then it shouldn’t be a problem after all. Just drop it.
Finally, in all things and at all times remember the Serenity Prayer. It is a wise man or woman who can recognize the difference between things they can change and those which they cannot change. You can change the situation but you cannot change another person. Likewise, you can change yourself or the way you view something but you cannot change a person. It may be possible to persuade them to your way of thinking, but if you have to use force then have you really accomplished anything at all? Probably not. If it is not a matter of life and death, or does not go against your moral fiber, ask yourself, “Is it really worth it?” You might be surprised at the answer.