As I think about what my activism looks like, I come back to the serenity prayer more and more these days. I also come back to the adage "Be the change you wish to see in the world." I used to believe this meant that I should not wait for someone else to step up and change the world, I should change the world. Instead, today, four years later after I was first introduced to nonviolence, I think that I really get that change begins within me.
I am not called to change the world, I am called to be the change.
It is a sobering moment to pray the serenity prayer and realize that "the things I cannot change" are in fact everything outside of me. That the only thing I can really, truly change is myself.
I want desperately to change the world. I want to stop bullying, and prevent suicides, and create jobs, and ensure everyone is well fed. I want to make my friend's parents understand and accept his gender and I want to make a different friend's parents see how truly wonderful she is, to pay attention to her. I want everyone to have fulfilling employment and adequate healthcare. There is so much I want to do for the world.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
I know the day my parents' attitude toward my queerness began to change: it was the day I told them I was ready to loose them forever. I could not change my parents. So I took care of myself. I had friends who loved and supported me. Some of them had parents who gave me mints before dates and asked how I was doing emotionally. Heck, Golden Globe nominee Stephanie Zimbalist even asked if I was planning to go vacation with my boyfriend! Somehow I managed to realize I could not change my parents, that I would need to make my own serenity. I am thankful for that wisdom (and I am thankful that my parents changed and are wonderful, affirming parts of my life today).
God grant me the courage to change the things I can.
When all that I can change is myself, changing the things I can is scary stuff. It is uncomfortable to change myself. To change myself means I might have to admit failure and wrongdoing. I like to believe I'm perfect.
Help me to truly change myself. To be willing to look at the unearned privilege I receive everyday: as a white person; as a man; as someone who is cis gender; as an American citizen; as typically abled; as debt free.
Give me the courage to give up the unearned privilege I receive daily in ways big and small, privilege which allows me to step on or over or past others. Give me the courage to seek out answers to difficult questions, to do my own homework and to educate myself. Give me the courage to step off the platform and allow someone else to step up. Give me the courage to refer interviewers or guest post requests or speaking engagements or book deals to those who know more and who are more affected by the issues. Give me the courage to listen. Give me the courage to learn. Give me the courage to change myself.
If I want to be the change I wish to see in the world, if I wish to change the things I can, I have a lot of work to do.
Give me the courage to judge myself not on how many debate points I score, rallies I attend, speeches I write, decisions I influence, or hearts & minds I change. Give me the courage to judge myself on how thoroughly I examine myself and my motives, how justly I act in the world, how interconnected I am willing to be with others.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Brian Gerald Murphy is the founder of a web design and media consulting firm, Be Gee M: Design & Media, and manages the branding and marketing of several diverse online ventures. He is also the co-founder of Sanctuary Collective, an organization that inspires, empowers, and supports young LGBTQ adults and allies living and organizing for justice in Christian communities. He was a participant in the Soulforce Equality Ride in 2007, where he and a number of other young adults visited colleges and universities across the Western United States. Brian was raised in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC, and graduated from the University of Southern California with degrees in cinematic arts and religion. Connect with him online via twitter @begeem or at www.briangerald.com.