Some of the readers of this column are using our Lenten booklet, “Letting Go with All Your Heart, Soul, Strength, and Mind” and so already know that the theme for this week’s readings is letting go of perfectionism.  Perfectionism can take many forms, including a persistent desire to fix others.
While the desire to fix others might be well intended, it is often experienced by the person supposedly in need of fixing as if the fixer is  “inflicting help.”  The person trying to fix another may come across as  “holier than thou,” or in it’s most extreme form, that the helper is trying to play the role of God.

A wonderful antidote to any tendencies toward perfectionism is the well known prayer called the Serenity Prayer, a prayer many have turned to over the years.  I recently became aware of a modern day adaptation of this famous prayer, written by a Jesuit priest by the name of James Martin.   James Martin, is an author and speaker, who became a regular on the Steven Colbert show when that show aired on Comedy Central, does a wonderful job of connecting spirituality with our everyday lives.

Here is the text of this modern day version of the Serenity Prayer.  It’s a good prayer for each of us to pray everyday, especially when we need help resisting the desire to play God by trying to fix others.

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change,
which is pretty much everyone,
since I’m clearly not you, God.
At least not the last time I checked.

And while you’re at it, God,
please give me the courage
to change what I need to change about myself,
which is frankly a lot, since, once again,
I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.
It’s better for me to focus on changing myself
than to worry about changing other people,
who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying,
I can’t change anyway.

Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up
whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter
than everyone else in the room,
that no one knows what they’re talking about except me,
or that I alone have all the answers.
Basically, God,
grant me the wisdom
to remember that I’m
not you.
Amen

James Martin, S.J.

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