I believe there is truth in everything. This is no exception. The Serenity Prayer is one of those truisms that can apply to so much. So let’s apply it to herpes and see how its simple truth can help us move past blaming ourselves, to move beyond hanging out in the past, in the “what ifs" and into our present lives.
The Serenity Prayer
Grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
So how does this apply to living with herpes?
- “Accept the things I cannot change.” There’s a lot of forgiveness in accepting your own past and the choices you made that shaped who you are now. Hindsight is 20/20. You don't get to judge your past self based on your present knowledge. You made a decision to sleep with someone. You got herpes. That part is done. Accept that, then a shift occurs: there’s no more spinning your wheels, hoping for that time machine or that herpes cure to save you. You have accepted “I have herpes” … now what?
- “Courage to change the things that I can.” It takes courage to move out of being a victim of herpes and into being the kind of person who is empowered. Changing the things you can might involve changing those disempowering beliefs about what having an STD means. Did you used to judge "those dirty people" with STDs, but then you found yourself being that person? Now you are programmed to turn that judgment onto yourself (a classic judgment boomerang). A change of beliefs is in order. And that takes work and practice. But it’s good, life-sustaining work. It clears out the cobwebs of beliefs that aren’t working for you. It reminds me of the classic book The Four Agreements in that you have many, many beliefs (Ruiz calls them Agreements) that have been made throughout your life. Some beliefs are true to you and others aren’t. You get to look at all the beliefs that you both consciously and unconsciously hold and ask yourself if they are serving you where you are now. Have you looked at your beliefs around herpes lately? Are they serving you in moving forward in your life in a self-accepting way?
- “Wisdom to know the difference.” Notice those times that you have that argument with yourself: “This would be so much easier if I didn’t have herpes … If only I hadn’t slept with that person …” Knowing the difference between the things you can’t change and the things you can allows you to put your energy into productive, life-affirming action. And changing certain beliefs around herpes may shine the light on other beliefs you’re holding in other aspects of your life that aren’t helping you either. This is the epitome of acceptance and self-forgiveness.
Taking this prayer to heart allows us to give ourselves the break we deserve. It takes us off the hamster wheel of self-destructive thought patterns so we can use that energy in better ways.