On this day in 1971 American pastor, academic and theologian Reinhold Niebuhr died. Born into a devout German immigrant family, Niebuhr worked in Detroit for many years and was outspoken in his support of workers’ rights as well as against Nazism, McCarthyism and racism. His writings have been hugely influential on many well-known public figures including US presidents Carter and Obama, Martin Luther King and Hillary Clinton. Niebuhr is also famous as the composer of the Serenity Prayer: “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”. This prayer, conceived in 1937, is especially beloved of self-help fellowships in the fight against addiction such as Alcoholics Anonymous. It is however a great source of comfort and calm to anyone suffering stress or anxiety. As such it is not unlike the Prayer of St Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life
To listen to this poem, click here
Today I shall say the Serenity Prayer, as I do every day.