The Bishop's Insight

From inscriptions on an English tombstone.

The Bishop's Insight

When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits. I dreamed of changing the world.

As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change.

So I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country.

But it too seemed immovable.

As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me.

But alas, they would have none of it.

And now as I lay on my deathbed, I suddenly realize:

If I had only changed myself first.

Then, by example I would have changed my family.

From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country.

And who knows, I may even have changed the world.


“Some things are in your control while others are not.”
That's the Stoic observation from Epictetus that opened The Encheiridion.

Stoics stressed the importance of knowing that difference. It means that you won't waste your time and energy trying to change the behaviour of others—because it's not up to you anyway. It means that you'll focus on what's really in your control—your own conduct.

A very similar spirit is captured in the Christian Serenity Prayer:

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.

Written by US theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971).