... grant me the
SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change, the
COURAGE to change the things I can and the
WISDOM to know the difference.

Why I think it should be called the Wisdom prayer:

We're told we live in the information age yet fundamentally, information is only a sequence of symbols that carry a message. Those messages can be amassed into knowledge. But knowledge is really just a familiarity with something or someone, which can include facts, information, and descriptions or skills. Wisdom, on the other hand, is a very different thing. Wisdom is the judicious application of knowledge. It is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations and their inter-relationship. Neither information nor knowledge is adequate; one must have wisdom to make impactful lasting change.

To have courage does not mean you do not have fear or that things are easy. In fact, courage is the attribute of making change despite the fact that it is hard or frightening. It is through wisdom and then courage that change is possible.

Many will think of serenity as a passive state. On the contrary, serenity is an active state. Serenity is not the same as surrender. Serenity starts with forgiveness. One of the most difficult human challenges is to respond to hate or adversity with kindness. We are all touched by the heartwarming story of a person responding to hate with kindness and yet when we are confronting a life challenge, our default reactions are often anger, angst, depression, anxiety, hate or any other destructive emotion we are capable of.

Why should we forgive? Your enemy, your illness, may not deserve forgiveness, but you deserve to be free. Holding on to destructive emotions has no impact on your illness or your enemy. Yet, letting go of those emotions and replacing them with love, compassion and kindness will have a profoundly positive impact on you. Ancient wisdom tells us "where love meets adversity, compassion is born.”

How do we forgive? Remember that the root of the word, forgive, means to "untie.” Untie yourself from the bond of destructive emotions surrounding your illness or circumstance. We forgive through wisdom. We must understand that the best antidote is to live a happy and successful life even with our limitations and disabilities. We must seek to find the "silver lining.” We should seek to learn and grow from the adversity. Seek allies on your journey to wellness: friends, family or healthcare givers. Be compassionate with yourself. So often our self-talk is destructive. Speak to yourself like you would speak to your best friend in your most compassionate voice. Do not be a victim but be the victor. Change the language you use to reflect a position of strength and not a position of weakness. In this way, retrain your thinking from that of a passive victim to an active victor, and maintain perspective. Each of us has an Everest to climb. Each Everest is unique but no less massive and foreboding. Yet climb it we must.

And why would you start this prayer with "..." when this is a prayer attributed to (but undoubtedly predates) the great Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and it starts with God? Isn't that disrespectful? I have chosen to use the Ellipses (...) in place of the word God because God is bigger than what can be known. Each individual has a concept of God but each of our concepts is only part of God. God is an English word. There are many other words around the world to convey the same meaning. So the use of the Ellipsis (...) is an attempt to enlarge our understanding of a word used to describe - the all and the everything. It is an attempt to have each of us pause and think about the word, the world we live in and what it means to us. Whether it is “Einstein’s God,” “My God,” or “Your God,” it is an IMMENSE word that demands reflection. Certainly God should be a concept more about uniting us than dividing us. An interesting observation: an Ellipsis is three dots, a Trinity. Or is it the “Three Sons of Abraham,” the commonality of Christianity, Judaism and Islam (and perhaps Bahai). Or is it a symbol of the multiple faces of God in the Hindu faith or the complexity of interconnectedness of the Buddhist or Taoist faith or Animism. What divides us is the petty concern of man; what unites us is the divine concern of God.

One of my fundamental beliefs about being human is that we are uniquely able to exercise control over that moment, in time, between stimulus and response. If you apply an electric current to an earth worm it has no choice but to rappel from the stimulus. A thoughtful, present human being can exercise the full spectrum of human reaction to those stimuli. In one context it can be anger and in another laughter. The uniquely human attribute is the ability to express love and compassion in that moment between stimulus and response. That requires wisdom.

And how is all of this related to functional medicine? Functional medicine demands much of its practitioners and its patients. Functional medicine attempts to organize the signs, symptoms and laboratory data into underlying causes. Functional medicine is not just information or knowledge. “Functional medicine is the judicious application of knowledge. It is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations and their inter-relationship. Neither information nor knowledge is adequate; one must have wisdom to make impactful lasting change.” This of course is the definition of wisdom given above. Functional medicine is the relentless pursuit of wisdom.
--Thomas A. Sult, M.D.
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