Friday, July 11, 2008

Did Reinhold Niebuhr Really Write the "Serenity Prayer?"

Recently a friend on the Internet Writing Workshop smiled over a phrase describing how attentive people were during the Great Depression to the preservation of food resources. I suggested they used "Every part of the pig except the squeal."

"Did you make that up?" she asked.

I don't know. It sounds like me, but I take caution in claiming the description. That's why this story interests me. We writers, after all, are immersed in our culture.

The prayer is now ubiquitous, on mugs and greeting cards and embroidered pillows, sometimes with Niebuhr’s name attached. But it is possible to find attributions ranging from Aristotle to St. Augustine to Francis of Assisi.

The precise origins of the Serenity Prayer have always been wrapped in a fog. Even in Niebuhr’s lifetime, his authorship was challenged. His response was typically modest. He was quoted in a magazine article in 1950 as saying: “Of course, it may have been spooking around for years, even centuries, but I don’t think so. I honestly do believe that I wrote it myself.”

Read the complete article here in the July 11th, 2008 New York Times.
Serenity Prayer Stirs Up Doubt: Who Wrote It?
By Laurie Goodstein

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