The serenity prayer?
December 23, 2017 12:28 PM   Subscribe

Solve a debate for me (between me and my editor): If I say "the serenity prayer" do you know what I mean and can you recite it. The context is whether a Canadian demographic between the ages of 45 and 60 would be likely to immediately know what was being referred to upon reading the phrase "the serenity prayer."
posted by 256 to Society & Culture (78 answers total)
I'm Canadian and 45 and immediately know what the Serenity Prayer is and can recite it. I went to Catholic schools but I think most people my age would also be able to recite it.
posted by saucysault at 12:31 PM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yes, I do recognize it. I don't know if I could recite it verbatim, but I think I could get close enough to get the idea across.

I'm 63. Not Canadian, but I did live in Montana for nine years.
posted by Bruce H. at 12:32 PM on December 23, 2017

I’m 42 and American and I could immediately recite it. I’m Jewish but know it from movies/shows with storylines about Alcoholics Anonymous or other Anonymous groups.
posted by amro at 12:43 PM on December 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Canadian, 46. I'd know what you mean and can recite the first verse. To me, it has more of an association with AA than with any specific religion.
posted by subluxor at 12:46 PM on December 23, 2017 [7 favorites]

I’m in my early 50s, and I absolutely know what it is, although I couldn’t recite it precisely word for word without looking it up. I’m American though.
posted by holborne at 12:47 PM on December 23, 2017

I'm from the US and 45yo, I know it but not through any religion.
posted by kimberussell at 12:50 PM on December 23, 2017

30's Canadian. Know it immediately, can easily recite the first six words and last verse, get a little fumbly around the middle two verses.

(I assume we're not going to quote it here for the sake of the experiment!)
posted by windykites at 12:51 PM on December 23, 2017

Also want to chime in as someone who associates it with AA, not a specific religion or denomination.
posted by windykites at 12:55 PM on December 23, 2017 [5 favorites]

44, originally from the US, now Australian. And yes, I know it and can recite part of it, though I blame Sinead O'Connor.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:56 PM on December 23, 2017 [8 favorites]

I'm Canadian, 46, and yes.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:01 PM on December 23, 2017

35, American, knew exactly what you meant, can recite it, absolutely associate it with AA.
posted by darchildre at 1:03 PM on December 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

52, American. It sounds familiar and I think it is from AA. So I associate it with addiction and recovery, think it starts with ‘God grant me’?

(Of course now I will have to google it, so after this moment I will be familiar with it.)
posted by Vaike at 1:05 PM on December 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

UK, Catholic, 36 - yes. Wife: UK, Jewish, 34 - also yes.
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 1:09 PM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Canadian, early 40s, and yes I know the Serenity Prayer and could recite it. I can only assume I have picked it up from the cultural ether.

Mr. hgg said "Pfft, yes I know that!" when I asked him, and then recited it.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:12 PM on December 23, 2017

40, American, grew up in California and now live in Massachusetts, not raised Christian. I know what you mean and can recite the first part, but I just learned that there are a bunch more lines I'd never heard before. The AA connection people are talking about makes sense to me, but I wouldn't have thought of it.
posted by moss at 1:12 PM on December 23, 2017

(Although if I'd known it as far as the "living one day at a time" bit, I'd definitely have associated it with AA.)
posted by moss at 1:14 PM on December 23, 2017

Gen X Canadian, raised nominally Protestant, know the prayer and associate it slightly but not exclusively with AA and other 12-step programmes. Most of my friends would have similar associations.
posted by rpfields at 1:15 PM on December 23, 2017

48, American, know what you mean, not sure if I could recite it verbatim, but close. Didn't know it as AA-associated. Asked my husband, 51, American, doesn't tend to know things like memes and other pop wisdom, so I wasn't sure if he'd know it, and he does, too, about the same amount as I do. Post-googling, I didn't know there was anything other than the first verse. If I were reading an article that referred to "the serenity prayer," I sure as heck would not expect it to have to spell it out for me, if that's what your editor wants to know -- lots more arguably arcane knowledge than that is assumed in plenty of articles I read.
posted by daisyace at 1:18 PM on December 23, 2017

For me, it would help to have it capitalized "the Serenity Prayer" to signify that it is a specific one and not just a general prayer about serenity. (Not Canadian though, Californian, learned from self-help context)
posted by metahawk at 1:18 PM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Canadian, 39, and yes I know it (from 28 Days -- Sandra Bullock's rehab movie) and could recite it. Partner, 40, UK does NOT know this phrase.
posted by Sauter Vaguely at 1:21 PM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just asked three raised-agnostic Canadians in your age range and they all knew what it was, and knew the words, roughly speaking, but not to the point of being able to recite the thing verbatim. All were familiar with it from various pop-culture contexts and associated it with AA/twelve-step-type programs.
posted by halation at 1:22 PM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

American, 46, know what it is, can recite the first verse but never knew it had more than one verse.
posted by Daily Alice at 1:27 PM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Mid 50's, American. Yes, I know what it is, not word for word but close.
posted by Redstart at 1:27 PM on December 23, 2017

Canadian 57. Yep, yep
posted by NotAlwaysSo at 1:56 PM on December 23, 2017

Good point about the capitalization, Metatalk. I would definitely expect to see it capitalized. And though I went to (Protestant) church when I was young, I have always associated it with addiction and recovery, not a general church prayer. I did not know there were other verses though, so I guess even though I said I know it, I really only know a part of it.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:57 PM on December 23, 2017

30s American chiming in I know exactly what you are taking about. I do have the AA association with it.
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:58 PM on December 23, 2017

canadian, 47, know of it but I don't think I could recite it. My brain wants to insert "serenity now!" into it somewhere. I associate it with AA and corny email forwards where it is superimposed over a sunset or something like that.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:01 PM on December 23, 2017

Canadian, lived on prairies all my life, 57, absolutely.
posted by purplesludge at 2:04 PM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

American, 47, west coast, raised atheist. Know it, could recite it kind of? I think my grandma had a fridge magnet with it on?
posted by lovecrafty at 2:08 PM on December 23, 2017

I’m in line with all of the above but also might scream silently, in my head, “SERENITY NOW!” I might say that out loud, too.
posted by amanda at 2:12 PM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Canadian, 58, knew it before I learned of its association with 12 step groups.
posted by angiep at 2:17 PM on December 23, 2017

Canadian, 40 years old. I can butcher the first verse while more-or-less preserving the sense of the thing.
posted by clawsoon at 2:19 PM on December 23, 2017

Canadian, 58. Protestant. I don't know where I first heard it, but I associate it strongly with recovery groups.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 2:34 PM on December 23, 2017

about 50, grown up in the US south, so a bit off your geographic base, but in your age range. Old enough to say your editor needs to be more widely read. Couldn't quote it word for word memorized, but know it well enough that a citation without explanation would not throw me. As others have said, popularized by 12 step programs, but one of those cultural references propagated by AA, NA, EA, etc. such that anyone with a friend who was in one (or who ever watched Seinfeld) could not fail to be familiar.

And geez, if I read an article and it said "the serenity prayer" and I didn't know what it meant, I could google it.

posted by randomkeystrike at 2:38 PM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

sort of, and no, because I don't know which version you mean
posted by thelonius at 2:42 PM on December 23, 2017

Canadian, late 40s and know it by heart. AA in the family. Just asked my francophone partner and she has no idea. Two solitudes?
posted by Cuke at 2:42 PM on December 23, 2017

Is the Serenity prayer a Firefly thing?

Kidding - I'm 53, have heard of it, and can pretty much recite it. AA's in the family.
posted by parki at 2:45 PM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

American, 41, and know what it is. Could recite it after a minute or two to think through the order. Grew up religious but I did not learn it at church, just through popular culture and cross-stitch pillows. I think of it as a recovery thing that's seeped into pop culture.
posted by bunderful at 2:50 PM on December 23, 2017

34, British, never heard it called by that name but recognised the words immediately when I read it.
posted by Urtylug at 2:53 PM on December 23, 2017

36, Canadian, might fumble the words a smidge but yes.
posted by Edna Million at 2:56 PM on December 23, 2017

Canadian 48 year-old female here. Yes, I know what it is. Just asked partner too (a few years younger) and she also knows of it. We both only recite the first bit however.
posted by Lescha at 3:14 PM on December 23, 2017

52, USA resident my whole life, not religious, not ever a substance abuser or in recovery, and I’ve always known it as a general culture thing that came out of AA.
posted by matildaben at 3:28 PM on December 23, 2017

Canadian background, 43, and yes, god give me the strength etc. Used in AA etc.
posted by bquarters at 3:44 PM on December 23, 2017

30s Canadian mixed race athiest. I associate it with seeing it in a little frame on a secretary's desk as a kid.
posted by stray at 3:50 PM on December 23, 2017

30s American. I certainly know what it is but I couldn't recite it. When I was younger, I think I thought it was just a generic modern pseudo-religious thing, but now I associate it with AA. Although looking it up, it's a lot older than I thought and not exclusively associated with AA.
posted by miyabo at 4:03 PM on December 23, 2017

When I started seeing references to second (and subsequent) verses, I looked at the Wikipedia article and discovered that the third version cited there is the one I'm familiar with. I only knew of the one verse.
posted by Bruce H. at 4:06 PM on December 23, 2017

American, 43, yes I know it. 12 step family.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:17 PM on December 23, 2017

Canadian, 42, agnostic/atheist background and I had no idea what you meant. It could be that I was born and raised in Québec? At least you now have one data point the other way.

I did recognize when people above quoted parts of it, but I had never heard "The Serenity Prayer".
posted by mephisjo at 4:24 PM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Almost 40 Canadian, grew up very Catholic - no idea what you meant
posted by hydrobatidae at 4:43 PM on December 23, 2017

If it was capitalized I would know immediately what you were referring to. If it was not capitalized I would guess from context that you might be referring to that. I could recite it.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:41 PM on December 23, 2017

44 Canadian, Eastern Orthodox, and yes, I know what you mean, as I have heard it everywhere from rehab-related movies, to email blasts that were all the rage in the 90s.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 5:47 PM on December 23, 2017

Mid 30s, American (Michigan, which is about as close to Canada as it gets), and definitely yes I know what you refer to but could not recite it verbatim.
posted by axiom at 6:18 PM on December 23, 2017

American, 63, know it by heart, learned it 40 years ago when I worked in addiction treatment, but was aware of it before that.
posted by she's not there at 6:24 PM on December 23, 2017

Canadian Gen X here and I know it from all the mugs and tea towels I've seen in knickknack stores for tourists etc. I had never heard of it in connection to any religion or AA.
posted by Coffeetyme at 7:24 PM on December 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Canadian (Ontarian), early 40s, non-Christian. I recognize the name and remember the jist of it, though I would struggle to quote it accurately.

I'm familiar with a short version, which isn't always obviously a prayer (often doesn't include God):

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

the Courage to change the things I can,

and the Wisdom to know the difference."

I associate it with fridge magnets, "inspirational" posters, and as someone above already said, knick knacks on secretary's desks. I learned in adulthood (probably from tv) that it is popular within AA.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 8:02 PM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm an American, lived in states that border Canada for pretty much my entire life, know what you mean and can recite it. I've also seen the title capitalized.
posted by dancing_angel at 9:44 PM on December 23, 2017

Gen X from Ontario and yes I recognized it.

I feel as though it was everywhere in the late 80s/early 90s on posters and magnets at Hallmark - along with Desiderata.
posted by A hidden well at 9:49 PM on December 23, 2017

34 Canadian. It sounded vaguely familiar, googled and thought, “Oh thaaaat!” So while I am below your target demographic and couldn’t recite it verbatim, it definitely registered.
posted by nathaole at 10:02 PM on December 23, 2017

Yes -- American, 51, atheist, associate it with AA/12 step.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:47 PM on December 23, 2017

36 yo woman, immediately recognized and can recite it, learned it as a child due my parents' connection to AA.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 1:26 AM on December 24, 2017

50, American. Know it, can recite it, and associate it with both AA and the concept of Christian self-abnegation.
posted by Samizdata at 1:34 AM on December 24, 2017

46, UK, male, atheist with CoE background - I recognised it and I know the "hook" but not the whole thing. Definitely associate it with AA.
posted by crocomancer at 4:48 AM on December 24, 2017

Late 30s American with no recovery or religious background. Yes. Know all the words and use it myself, leaving out the first word.
posted by OrangeVelour at 4:59 AM on December 24, 2017

39, US, not religious and not involved in any 12-step program. Know it although I didn't remember the exact wording.
posted by gennessee at 5:21 AM on December 24, 2017

I'm 51, English is my second language. I migrated to Australia 10 years ago and even then I already knew what the Serenity Prayer was, mostly through American movies depicting AA meetings.
posted by kandinski at 7:29 AM on December 24, 2017

Gen X Canadian, lived in a few provinces. I recognize it, but don't know it. LN can actually recite it, but she was raised Catholic. I'm not very religious.
posted by bonehead at 7:40 AM on December 24, 2017

Canadian, early 50s, know it and can recite, mostly through Al Anon though I'm pretty sure I knew it before that too.
posted by Frenchy67 at 8:25 AM on December 24, 2017

New Englander (US) 49, atheist/Jewish. I know what you are referring to. To me it's an AA thing, can sort of recite it.
posted by jessamyn at 9:15 AM on December 24, 2017

It was engraved on a tiny gold pendant that an elderly cousin in South Dakota sent me as a gift in the 1960s, when I was a child. (I don't think she was involved in AA.)
posted by artistic verisimilitude at 3:42 PM on December 24, 2017

32, American, not raised in any particular religion. I know the first verse (didn't know there were others until I googled it just now) and very strongly associate it with kitschy mugs, Pinterest boards, and signs that say "Live Laugh Love."
posted by basalganglia at 4:47 PM on December 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

30s American (northern Minnesotan, maybe that counts), and both sets of grandparents had this on a plaque in their house. I saw it in other houses around my neighborhood, sometimes abbreviated, sometimes more flowery. I kind of have the same association with it as the Grace photograph (which I thought was a painting when I was little), since that also appeared frequently in the same households. (Grace on wiki, and I have learned so much, wow)
posted by pepper bird at 8:37 PM on December 24, 2017

American, 42, moved a lot growing up, no religious upbringing. I had no idea what you meant by "Serenity Prayer" but when I googled it I recognized (the first few lines at least) as something I've seen inscribed on knick-knacks and t-shirts.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 6:52 AM on December 25, 2017

American, 48, atheist, raised East Coast/live Midwest, know the first three lines (i.e. the first sentence) to recite from memory, didn't know there was more to it, and am only familiar with it because of riffs on it for humor's sake for mugs and t-shirts and the like (e.g. "and the wisdom to hide the bodies.") Literally learned from this thread that it's from AA.
posted by tzikeh at 7:47 AM on December 25, 2017

Forgot to include the most important part: yes, if someone said/wrote "the Serenity Prayer" I would know what they were referring to (but, as stated above, only that first sentence and--until today--would not have associated it with AA).
posted by tzikeh at 7:51 AM on December 25, 2017

Canadian, 40, no idea what it is.
posted by dripdripdrop at 4:05 PM on December 25, 2017

Learned from this thread that it went beyond the first verse (which I could have quoted verbatim) and now discovered that there was an original version (which I'd never heard before.)
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:54 AM on December 26, 2017

46, US, know what it is. Can get pretty close on the first bit, although perhaps not verbatim. (And whenever I hear it I always want to quibble with the second line, that just because you can change a thing does not mean you should.) Didn't know the second part. Was familiar with the first part primarily through TV and movie depictions of AA & similar meetings, though I've seen it elsewhere too.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:28 AM on December 27, 2017

Raised Pentecostal but it never came up in church. Trying to remember when my first friend went to rehab because that is where I would have heard it. Sometime in the late 80's or early 90's in the Midwestern United States.
posted by mumblelard at 4:30 PM on December 27, 2017

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