accept what cannot be altered, with patience (Reinhold Niebuhr 1934)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Nov 20 20:18:28 UTC 2009

The phrase "accept what cannot be altered, with patience" is in a
prayer attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr in a 1934 book that I have
found. The word patience is occasionally substituted for serenity in
variants of the Serenity Prayer; hence, this might be viewed as a
fragment of that prayer. It is true that the phrase expresses a common
theme in religious thought. Perhaps the attachment to Niebuhr in this
time frame makes the citation interesting.

Access to the book, "Prayers for Services", that contains the
quotation is sharply restricted on Google Books. I was not even able
to extract snippets. I hope that this post reduces the aggravation of
any other researchers that have located this text while searching via
Google Books.

Here is an excerpt: For those who have been worsted in the battles of
life,  whether by the inhumanity of their fellows, their own
limitations or the fickleness of fortune, that they may contend
against injustice without bitterness, overcome their own weaknesses
with diligence and learn how to accept what cannot be altered, with
"Prayers For Services: A Manual for Leaders of Worship", Morgan Phelps
Noyes, page 145, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1934.

The text is rather long-winded when compared to the terseness of the
Serenity Prayer.


The American Dialect Society -

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