Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Eileen Flanagan: The Wisdom to Know the Difference

Here’s a great excerpt from Eileen Flanagan’s book
“The Wisdom to Know the Difference,” now available in paperback!

Learning to live with trust does not happen overnight, just as the spiritual practices in this book are not necessarily learned in a neat progression: recognize your conditioning, know yourself, then listen for divine guidance and change your attitude. Instead they are points around a spiral. Each practice makes the others easier. Accepting yourself makes it easier to accept others. Accepting others makes it more likely you will bring out the best in them, which helps to build a strong community. Community, in turn, can help you listen to God and know yourself. Sometimes it may feel like you are going in circles, until you realize that you are a little wiser than the last time around.


Accepting life’s flat tires seems to be easier for people who have accepted themselves. If you know who you are, what you are capable of, and what you are called to do, you are much less likely to waste your time and energy sweating the small stuff or even the big stuff you cannot change. You are less likely to project your uncomfortable feelings onto other people, instead of facing your feelings and learning what they have to teach you. You are less likely to waste time trying to change other people and more likely to influence them with a positive example.

Quoted with permission, from The Wisdom to Know the Difference (c) 2009 Eileen Flanagan, published by Tarcher/Penguin.


Knowing yourself …also helps you to know God and to trust that you live and work within a larger plan that you are not always able to see. A friend of mine uses the phrase, “Lord, your ocean is so wide, and my boat is so small.” She observes, “I’ve got to be in my boat, and I’ve got to keep paddling. But it’s in this infinite ocean. I would just be ludicrous to think I knew fully and completely where I was going.”

It’s helpful to remember that Reinhold Niebuhr’s version of the Serenity Prayer asks first for “grace.” Such humility is a step toward serenity, accepting that even when we’re paddling as hard as we can, we can’t control the ocean. We can only control our own paddle. Likewise, a step toward courage is recognizing that our own paddle matters. After all, thousands of Katrina victims were rescued from their rooftops by people in rowboats, many of them ordinary citizens who just started rowing. Their willingness to brave the waters certainly made a difference.


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  • Teri A

    Loved this post!! I’m trying to keep up with what’s going on with you Therese. How is work going and your new schedule? How are you coping?

  • workerbev

    Hello Therese, just read today’s post and it is so good. It goes right along with my “Flylady” email today on loving yourself. FLY means “Finally Loving Yourself” and her website helps you control clutter in your home and routines on cleaning your house and how to keep it clean. Two of the best websites in the world IMHO are yours and Flylady’s.
    Was also wondering how the new job is working out? I imagine you are totally exhausted by the time you get home in the evening, but this too will pass as you grow accustomed to 9-5p and then falling into a routine in the evening. But please, love yourself and don’t burn the candle at both ends and burn yourself out. You will just start to beat yourself up and start resenting the fact you had to go to work full-time. Then you may start resenting the time (that you don’t have)you have to use to write your blogs here on BeyondBlue. Please, please, please don’t give up on BeyondBlue. You have helped so many people, myself included, but no pressure, LOL.
    As you are going into Autumn then Winter (I’m going into Spring), you have to be extra careful of your physical health as well. Eat properly to keep your immune system charged up so you won’t catch bugs from people in the workplace, be sure to continue with your quiet time so as to keep your Spirit refreshed, exercise, use your “Happy Light”. Ha, here I go, sounding like a mother – but I care so much about you and knowing how fragile you are, I just feel like I could be your mother. Please, just take extra, super care of yourself and stay close to God and He will take care of everything else. Happy Smiles, Beverly Penney, Tasmania (Australia)

  • Joe Gonzalez

    Excellent post, Therese – just excellent ! But then, nothing exceptional in that, it’s just your style, and the Grace tha guides you. Blessings, my friend !

  • Anna Marie

    This a beautiful way to understand the SERENITY PRAYER

  • SuzanneWA

    Excellent post today, Therese!! Accepting that we do have “grace” in our lives, is one of the first, and major, “gifts that help all of us to cope with whatever life throws at us. Yes, I have a small boat, and I don’t know what the ocean holds, but I DO know the Lord is guiding my paddle, and not myself…PLEASE be KIND to yourself as you enter this next phase in your life. It isn’t easy to face the workplace coming FROM another workplace, much less going into it with as little experience as you have with it. Accept the fact that you’re doing your BEST in the “enemy” camp; you are NOT working for yourself – you’re trying to PLEASE a boss. Like the post above, I, too, feel like a “Mother Hen” when it comes to your “fragile” emotional health. Remember, “multi-tasking” is NOT aLL it’s cracked up to be. Find time to replenish yourself, and make “quiet time” your top priority. I do wish ALL the best for you, so…keep up the GOOD WORK!! Luv & hugs, Suzanne

  • Meg

    Grace. It really is an amazing thing. I just finished reading “Grace Walk” by Steve McVey—an incredible, eye opening experience. I highly recommend the book. Once your eyes are opened to what it means to truly live in grace, it’s hard to go back to the life we once knew. Grace to you, my friend!

  • Judy

    “Their willingness to brave the waters certainly made a difference.”
    I don’t know why, but this statement made me tear up. I’m still tearing up a little as I write this. My path is one in which I will risk my life for my beliefs and to bring wisdom to those who need it most. Because of that little snag, I go through periods of despair and weakness, in which I fight it, become lazy, and try to visualize some other means to my end. Nothing comes close.
    I am trying to accept that even though I may die, I may also live, and that is worth anything. I know that God is protecting me, as well. It seems like he’s always been there for me to point me in the right direction. Why would he abandon me now?
    Thank you for writing these. I can always find the hand of God somewhere in your words.

  • randy

    “It’s helpful to remember that Reinhold Niebuhr’s version of the Serenity Prayer asks first for ‘grace.'”
    i don’t see where the serenity prayer asks for grace. I would be more open to your point of view if it were based on fact.

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