In confronting this thing we call the human experience, there are two basic ways of looking at the world: 1) a place we’re trying to make things go the way we want them to, or 2) a place to practice the development of virtues. Both views present substantial obstacles. The first view constantly runs into external obstacles, the fact that I simply can’t, try as I might, get this world to conform itself to my wishes. Some people seem to be better at this than others, but in the end, we are all confronted with our lack of control of the universe. The “Serenity Prayer” (long version) asks us to accept this world “as it is, not as I would have it”. Sound advice given that, if I am a) honest and b) substantially in touch with my deepest longings, the world is rarely as I would have it.
The second view constantly confronts my internal obstacles, my own resistance to focusing on the development of virtue instead of demanding that the world cater to my wishes. Paul Ferrini says, “Any situation beyond your control offers you the opportunity to love and to trust”. Simply and elegantly stated. We could add “the opportunity to gain wisdom, practice patience, exercise self-control, grow in kindness, grace… any virtue”. Obviously I am advocating the second way of looking at the world, which by the way, does not preclude any attempt to make this world a better place. In fact, this view advocates that accepting my powerlessness to change anything outside of myself and refocusing my energy on changing myself is in fact, paradoxically, the only way to create lasting change in the world.