How to accept things I cannot change?

A man in wheelchair at a conference on developmental disabilities

There was an ancient Greek philosopher who is reputed to have counseled:

Young man, get married, get married. If you get a good wife, you will be happy and that is a good thing. And if you do not get a good wife, you will become a philosopher and that also is a good thing.’ 

The idea of the latter part of the saying is that it is good to adjust to that which cannot be changed, taking a philosophical view of life, as it were. But how can this be done?

Dealing with the unchangeable


This matter of learning to live with the unchangeable applies to ever so many facets of life. The very matter of one’s height might cause one grief.

A girl more than six feet tall may fret because she is so tall. Then, again, a man less than five feet may chafe because he is so short.

What can any of these persons do? “What can’t be cured must be endured,” is the way one physician put it. One who learned to live with his extreme shortness is Carlos Romulo, a Philippine statesman.

He says that he did not let his being so short a bash him and, in time, found that it really was an asset, as people often have an inclination to favor the person who is very small.

One thing that all such disadvantaged persons can do is to learn to appreciate the blessings that they do have. Is it not true that life and even a measure of health are great blessings?

There are the beauties of creation or “nature,” the pleasure of listening to beautiful music, the love of family and friends and the satisfaction that comes from being useful both to one’s life and to others.

The same applies to one’s attitude toward world problems, some of which have no immediate solutions.

Political leaders have a great deal to say about today’s crisis. So do religious leaders, newspaper writers, atomic scientists and others.

However, this article is not about the world’s crisis. Rather, it is about your crisis, the one that you as an individual face today, how to cope with these problems as an individual.

The poor living conditions that exist in most parts of the world, unemployment and poverty, crime and fear can cause you great discouragement.

At times you can become depressed because of fighting many serious problems the world throws at you at once. Life becomes dismal because these seem to add up to one great plight.

But, instead of viewing them as such, why not deal with them individually, as far as possible?

Making suitable efforts to resolve one at a time is surely better than linking these problems together in one’s mind and experiencing frustration.

So avoid being unduly anxious on problems you can’t presently solve, deal with only those within your reach and ability. Passage of time will equip you with the know how to deal with them later.

Yes, it will help us to learn to live with the unchangeable if we try to be philosophical about our particular situation and make the best of it.

Accept the fact that all happiness is relative and that under present imperfect conditions there will always be some bitter with the sweet.

So, in whatever state or condition you might find yourself; look for its compensations or mercies.

To resist feelings of self-pity, a person must have the right view of his problems and trials. We should look on unpleasant experiences as opportunities to improve in the display of fine qualities under test.

For instance, if things always went smoothly for us, how could we tell whether we actually had patience, endurance or self-control?

On the other hand, challenging circumstances soon make it clear to us wherein we are lacking. This puts us in a better position to make improvement.

The same applies to our relations with others. Many married couples upon finding that they are not very compatible separate or divorce, but the better way would be to learn to adjust to each other.

For example, there was a romantic Italian, fond of athletics, who married a rather conservative British girl. For years they had difficulty in living together, but for the sake of the children they did not break up. However, in time they learned to adjust, bringing more contentment and happiness into their marriage.

If you could relive the last ten years, would you live them differently? Have you ever thought about what might have been if you had not made certain decisions or had done certain things?

No matter how much you would like to turn back time and relive it in a different manner, the past cannot be changed. It is like a word that goes out of a man’s mouth. Once it leaves his lips he cannot grasp it and pull it back.

Your life’s course is marked by what you have done, just as footprints in moist concrete indelibly mark the path you have taken.

You can look back on your life markers, but all you can do is look; you cannot erase them or change them.

If you have lived foolishly and selfishly your life’s course may be strewn with the wreckage of broken friendships and shattered marriages. It may be scarred from acts of dishonesty, deceitfulness, and perhaps even violence.

But the future does not have to be like the past. You do not have to repeat those mistakes or continue walking in the same course. You now know what the right decision before you make it, and the right thing to do before you do it.

Truly, many are the situations under which you will have to endure, because of being unable to change them, or to get out of them honorably.

But whatever the situations may be, the wise course is to learn to live with them, by learning to adjust and making improvements.

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