Practice These Principles
Living the Spiritual Disciplines and Virtues in 12-Step Recovery

The Virtue of Serenity

The practice of serenity starts in Step 3 through the Serenity Prayer. This links serenity directly to acceptance as the most immediate tool which can bring us peace amidst the storms of daily life.

The Serenity Prayer and acceptance do not stand alone, however. They rest on another prayer and another tool which come before them. This is the 3rd Step Prayer and the surrender that we begin to practice through it. 

In Step 3 we end the war. We give up all resistance and cease all hostilities. We stop fighting God and make peace with him. We accept his terms, which are not unreasonable: we admit that he’s God and we are not. We surrender our will to his and accept his guidance and direction for our life. We start to rest on him, to trust him and to look to him for our peace and our security, confident that we are loved and will be cared for, whatever the circumstances.

Reconciliation with God is the spiritual foundation of our serenity and peace of mind. Acceptance of who he is and who we are make all other acts of acceptance possible. Based on our reconciliation with him, we seek to reconcile to life and to reconcile with others. We embark upon a continuing process of surrender and acceptance through the Steps of self-examination, confession, and restitution.

As we take inventory and admit to our character and emotional defects, and as we become willing to surrender them and pray for their removal, we start to be relieved of the shortcomings and troubled emotions that rob us of all peace. As we become willing to forgive those who have wronged us and make amends to those we have wronged, calm is restored to our heart and harmony to our relationships.

It is as we take these steps and walk along the path toward reconciliation that AA makes one of its most comforting promises: “We will comprehend the word serenity, and we will know peace.”

[Image: Bill W. and Dr. Bob, with the Serenity Prayer in the background.]

“If I feel that my pain has in part been occasioned by others, I try to repeat, ‘God grant me the serenity to love their best, and never fear their worst.’ This healing process has seldom failed to restore me to at least a workable emotional balance and perspective.” – Bill W., As Bill Sees It

“Just to the extent that we do as we think he would have us, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.” – Big Book

“In all times of emotional disturbance or indecision, we can pause, ask for quiet, and in the stillness simply say: ‘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. Thy will, not mine, be done.” – 12&12

“When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life—unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.” – Dr. Paul O. ("Acceptance Was the Answer," Big Book, p.417)

“Lord, make me a channel of thy peace—that where there is hatred, I may bring love, where wrong, forgiveness, where discord, harmony, where error, truth, where doubt faith, where despair, hope, where shadows, light, where sadness, joy. – St. Francis Prayer [edited]

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27

“. . . and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds.” – Philippians 4:6-7

“Cultivate peace first in the garden of your heart by removing the weeds of selfishness and jealousy, greed and anger, pride and ego. Then all will benefit from your peace and harmony.” – Buddha

“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” – Lao Tzu


“You will give yourself peace of mind if you perform every act of your life as if it were you last.” – Marcus Aurelius


“The mind is never right but when it is at peace within itself.” – Seneca

“The pursuit, even of the best things, ought to be calm and tranquil.” – Cicero

“Only the just man enjoys peace of mind.” – Epicurus

“Five great enemies to peace inhabit with us: avarice, ambition, envy, anger, and pride. If those enemies were to be banished, we should infallibly enjoy perpetual peace.” – Petrarch


“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” – St. Augustine 


“In His will is our peace.” – Dante

“First keep the peace within yourself, then you can also bring peace to others.”
– Thomas à Kempis


“When we are unable to find tranquility within ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere.” – Francois de La Rochefoucauld

“Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, and justice.” – Baruch Spinoza


“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Gandhi

“Talent develops in tranquility, character in the full current of human life.”
– Goethe

“All this hurrying soon will be over. Only when we tarry do we touch the holy.”    – Rainer Maria Rilke

“He that would live in peace and at ease must not speak all he knows or all he sees.” – Benjamin Franklin

“Avoid popularity if you would have peace.” – Abraham Lincoln

“For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The best thing one can do when it is raining is to let it rain.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


“Happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne


“Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.” – Max Ehrmann

“A good conscience is to the soul what health is to the body; it preserves constant ease and serenity within us; and more than countervails all the calamities and afflictions which can befall us.” – Joseph Addison


“People forget that their lives will end soon. For those who remember, quarrels come to an end.” – The Dhammapada


“Whenever conscience speaks with a divided, uncertain, and disputed voice, it is not the voice of God. Descend still deeper into yourself, until you hear nothing but a clear, undivided voice, a voice which does away with doubt and brings with it persuasion, light, and serenity.” – Henri Frederic Amiel

“But peace, too, is a living thing, and like all life it must wax and wane, accommodate, withstand trials, and undergo changes.” – Hermann Hesse


“The trees, the flowers, the plants grow in silence. The stars, the sun, the moon move in silence. Silence gives us a new perspective.” – Mother Teresa

“If I have been of service; if I have glimpsed more of the nature and essence of ultimate good; if I am inspired to reach wider horizons of thought and action; if I am at peace with myself, it has been a successful day.” – Alex Noble 

“The first step to becoming a more peaceful person is to have the humility to admit that, in most cases, you're creating your own emergencies. Life will usually go on if things don't go according to plan. It's helpful to keep reminding yourself and repeating the sentence, ‘Life isn't an emergency’."
– Richard Carlson

“Circumstances and situations do color life, but you have been given the mind to choose what the color shall be.” – John Homer Miller 

“Nothing is a greater impediment to being on good terms with others than being ill at ease with yourself.” – Norman Vincent Peale

“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” – C. S. Lewis

“We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.” – Thomas Merton


“Find peace with yourself by accepting not only what you are, but what you are never going to be.” – Unknown


“The simplification of life is one of the steps to inner peace. A persistent simplification will create an inner and outer well-being that places harmony in one's life.” – Peace Pilgrim


“Inner peace can be reached only when we practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the past, and is therefore the means for correcting our misperceptions” – Gerald G. Jampolsky 


“Talk peaceful to be peaceful.” – Unknown

“I had found a kind of serenity, a new maturity . . . I didn't feel better or stronger than anyone else but it seemed no longer important whether everyone loved me or not—more important now was for me to love them. Feeling that way turns your whole life around; living becomes the act of giving.”
– Beverly Sills

“Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.” – Unknown

“Today this faith in a Higher Power, plus the honesty, open-mindedness and willingness to work the Steps of the program, gives me the serenity that I seek.” – A.A.’s Daily Reflections

“When you have confidence in God’s grace, you can face whatever comes. When you have confidence in God’s love, you can be serene and at peace. You can rest in the faith that God will take care of you. – Twenty-Four Hours a Day

“When I react, I put the control of my peace of mind in the hands of others. My serenity is under my control, and I will not relinquish it for trivial occurrences.”
One Day at a Time in Al-Anon

 “When I gather flowers, or marvel at nature’s wonders, I do not lose face when I concede that I’m not in control. So it is with everything in my life. The best way I’ve found to invite serenity is to recognize that the world is in good hands.”
– Al-Anon’s Courage to Change 

"I will surrender and let a Higher Power's will happen in my life. I will accept the gift of serenity this surrender brings." – Just For Today: Daily Meditations for Recovering Addicts

“Having interiorized and become wholly disposed to peace, we can then become peacemakers. Our internal strife gone, we are able to impart to others the peace that we now have in us.” – PTP

“By trying even in our limited and imperfect ways to show to others the grace that God shows to us, we become channels of his peace and of his love. We can give no greater service.” – PTP


                 – For more PTP passages on serenity and peace, see “The Serenity Prayer,”
                    pp.192 – 202, and “Serenity and Peace,” pp. 214-215. For more BB and
                    12&12 passages, click on and search under
                    “serenity” and “peace.” See also, on this site: “The Virtue of Acceptance,”
                    in Practice These, and "The Slogans of Step 3," in Reflections

Additional Resources

  1. Acceptance: The Way to Serenity and Peace of Mind, booklet by Vincent Paul Collins

  2. “Peace,” chapter in Spiritual Emotions: A Psychology of Christian Virtues, by Robert C. Roberts

  3. “The Virtue of Peace,” chapter in How to Be Good in a World Gone Bad: Living a Life of Christian Virtue, by James S. Spiegel

For other posts on the virtues and the disciplines, please click on Practice These.