The Five Things We Cannot Change

One of the most profound lessons I’ve learned—one which allows me to find inner peace and serenity in my life—is the acceptance of what is. By extension, this is also the acceptance of what happens, who people are, and what I cannot change.


This one shift in perspective can take us from the Why Me? drama and the victim mentality and lead us to an unconditional yes to the realities of life. This change can free us from our neurotic ego which is controlled by fear, desire, control, judgment, complaint and expectation.

If we can learn to accept these five things, (as outlined by David Richo in his book The Five Things We Cannot Change), we can begin to say yes to what is, and find the inner peace and calm to deal with people, situations, and the givens of life from a place of inner strength and power.

1. Everything changes and ends

“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.” ~Michael J. Fox

It is unquestionably inevitable that things change and things end. Yet we resist and fight this reality all the time as if nothing should ever change and nothing should ever end, and as a result we cause ourselves countless hours of suffering. These hours we can never get back, yet we spend them resisting and not accepting changes and endings.

Let’s face it, life is a series of beginnings and endings and along the way the scenery changes. Jobs change, people change, we get older, relationships end, sickness happens, and people die. If we can say Yes to this reality then we can accept the changes and endings in the story of our lives and do what we need to do to heal, mend and let go. And with acceptance, life becomes less of a struggle.

2. Things do not always go according to plan

“Life is a series of natural and Spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them–that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality.” ~Lao Tzu

I remember once hearing or reading that “if you think you know your path then it isn’t your path”. Sure, we can set goals, have desires and hopes for our life and we can make choices in accordance. However, the reality is that sometimes life can get in the way.

Think of any given day in your life. You may have a “to do” list or things you plan on doing or getting done. But by the end of the day, you look back at your list only to find you’ve accomplished none of it. Being married to and working in the Funeral Business has truly helped me master this given of life.

3. Life is not always fair

“I am a lover of what is, not because I’m a spiritual person, but because it hurts when I argue with reality.” ~Byron Katie

  • Have you run across these situations or said any of the following truisms?
  • Good people do bad things.
  • Bad things happen to good people.
  • Some people have all the luck.
  • Sometimes, everything seems to go wrong or badly for some people.
  • Sometimes people will hurt us.
  • Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

Let’s face it, life just doesn’t seem fair at times.

Unfairness is a given of life that we need to find a way to accept, as challenging as it may seem. We have to find a way to keep our hearts open in spite of it, grieve over our losses and forgive those we see as our enemies. Otherwise we remain—and will always be—victims holding onto the resentment that keeps inner peace and joy beyond our reach.

4. Pain is part of life

Yes is the brave ally of serenity; no is the scared accomplice of anxiety.” ~David Richo

As much as joy and happiness is a part of life, so is pain. We suffer emotionally and physically. It is a cost of living: accidents happen, disease happens and physical pain is the cost. Emotional and psychological pain happens through our losses, disappointments, betrayals, abandonments, and the behavior of others.

We will never understand why certain things happen. In any case, the explanations don’t always bring us comfort and relieve our pain. The pain of life can become our gateway to finding compassion for ourselves and others. Acceptance without resistance is the bridge from suffering to healing.

5. People are not loving and loyal all the time

“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one who inflicted it. And yet, there is not peace without forgiveness.” ~Marianne Williamson

To be human is to be imperfect. With this limitation comes the ability to hurt others, to betray, to be dishonest, to hate, to reject, to abandon.

The reality of being part of the human race is that our ever unfolding story creates within each of us the personality of our ego—part of which can be healthy and part of which can be unhealthy.

Our wounded ego can become fearful and because of that fear it can act in ways that are not always loving and loyal. If we can see the reality of this, we can also accept that to be human is to make mistakes. Acceptance, however, does not mean we lay down and accept unloving behavior or disloyalty. Instead, it means we do not seek revenge or retaliation but rather find compassion and forgiveness in our hearts while at the same time walking away.

To resist and reject these five things and the givens they represent is to survive; to accept them is to thrive.

My wish for you is a life of not just surviving, but of thriving!.

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