…the detachment to accept those things I cannot alter…



God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.

“This prayer has been credited to almost every theologian, philosopher and saint known to man. It was actually written around 1932 by Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr of the Union Theological Seminary in New York City, as the ending to a longer prayer. In 1934, the doctor’s friend and neighbor, Dr. Howard Robbins, asked permission to use this part of the longer prayer in a compilation he was making at the time. It was published in that year in Dr. Robbin’s book of prayers.

“The prayer came to the attention of an early member of A.A. in 1940. He read it in an obituary in the New York Herald Tribune. He liked it so much he brought it to G.S.O., then on Vesey Street, for Bill W. to read. When Bill and the staff read the little prayer they felt that it particularly suited the needs of A.A. Cards were printed and passed around. Thus has this simple little prayer become a part of the A.A. literature. ” (From the July, 1961 A.A. Exchange Bulletin)

“When the Grapevine last reported on the origin of the Serenity Prayer (January, 1950, issue), we had traced it to Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, who set it down in 1932 in very much the form given above. Dr. Niebuhr said at the time that he thought it might have been spooking around for years, even centuries…’

“Now an alert A.A. has sent us a clipping from the Paris Herald Tribune of an article written by its Koblenz (West Germany) correspondent: “In the rather dreary hall of a converted hotel, overlooking the Rhine at Koblenz, framed by the flags of Prussian regiments rescued from the Tannenberg memorial, is a tablet inscribed with the following words: ‘God give me the detachment to accept those things I cannot alter; the courage to alter those things which I can alter; and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.’ These words (are) by Friedrich Otenger, and evangelical pietist of the eighteenth century…’” (From the November, 1964 A.A.Grapevine.)

*Excerpts from A.A. service material, SMF-141.

For a more in-depth background, see SMF-129, A.A.’s compiled history of the prayer as it surfaced when they were researching.



FAQ #4: A local A.A. Website…


Some FAQs About A.A. Web Sites

Q. How do we start to set up a local A.A. Web site? 

A. Decisions in the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous are usually made through an informed group conscience and the decision to post a web page is no different. Whether area or district, central office or intergroup – A.A. experience suggests forming a committee to discuss all aspects of setting up a web site, including all possible concerns about the Traditions.

Q. Who is responsible for a web site?

A. A thoughtful and informed group conscience is encouraged to be responsible for deciding the contents, policy and procedures involved in setting up and maintaining a web site. It has been suggested that a web master (web manager) be appointed or elected to serve as a trusted servant, responsible to the committee or groups served. This can be an arduous task if the web master is responsible for updating local meeting information.

Q. How do we select a domain name for our web site?

A. What you choose for your domain name should, again, be determined by the group conscience. To preserve Alcoholics Anonymous’ trademarks and service marks, individuals and A.A. groups are asked to avoid using these marks (“A.A.”; “Alcoholics Anonymous”; “The Big Book”) in their domain names. It has been our experience that many service entities have integrated lower case “aa” into their domain name along with other identifying information (e.g. www.aacentraloffice.org or www.area999aa.org).

Q. What A.A. information is suitable for a web site?

A. Again, the group conscience will determine the contents. Copyright restrictions apply to material displayed on the web site – just as copyrights protect A.A. literature. Permission must be obtained from G.S.O. prior to including A.A.W.S. material on your web site. However, web sites created by A.A. areas, districts and central/intergroup offices are permitted to quote a phrase, sentence or brief paragraph excerpted from A.A. literature – such as the Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous), Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, The A.A. Service Manual, and Conference-approved pamphlets – without a prior, written request to do so. When this occurs, the proper credit line should be included to ensure that the copyrights of A.A. literature are protected. After a quotation from a book or pamphlet, the credit line should read: “Reprinted from (name of publication, page number), with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.”

Q. What about linking to other sites?

A. Linking to other A.A. web sites will often have the positive effect of significantly broadening the scope of your site. Information contained on these sites becomes instantly available to those visiting your site. However, since each A.A. entity is autonomous and has its own group conscience, a site to which you have linked may start to display information which your group conscience finds objectionable; and there is no way to know when this might occur, or to prevent it from happening.

Q. What about anonymity?

A. We observe all A.A.’s principles and Traditions on our web sites. As anonymity is the “spiritual foundation of all our Traditions,” we practice anonymity on A.A. web sites at all times. An A.A. web site is a public medium which has the potential for reaching the broadest possible audience and, therefore, requires the same safeguards that we use at the level of press, radio and film.

Q. Will the General Service Office of A.A. act as a “clearinghouse” for local web sites?

A. There is no central authority in Alcoholics Anonymous, hence, the General Service Office of A.A. is not a “clearinghouse” for local web sites. Questions regarding the Traditions, contents, linking, etc. are determined by a local group conscience. G.S.O. is available to share collected experience on any subject, including web sites. At this point, though, G.S.O. has only limited sharing from local web site committees regarding their experience with matters which are unique to web site creation.

Q. What can be found on G.S.O.’s A.A. Web site (www.aa.org)?

A. In keeping with our Twelve Traditions and viewing the Internet as a form of public and electronic media, G.S.O’s A.A. Web site was originally set up as a public information tool. It has been broadened to include material that are more directed to members of our Fellowship. The site provides accurate and consistent information about Alcoholics Anonymous to the general public, media and professionals in English, French and Spanish.

Q. Is this promotion rather than attraction?

A. As our co-founder, Bill W., wrote: “Public information takes many forms – the simple sign outside a meeting place that says ‘A.A. meeting tonight’; listing in local phone directories; distribution of A.A. literature; and radio and television shows using sophisticated media techniques. Whatever the form, it comes down to ‘one drunk carrying the message to another drunk,’ whether through personal contact or through the use of third parties and the media.”

“Reprinted from aa.org, with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.”

Ever wonder about the editing of the Big Book manuscript?


From the Spring 2014 issue of Markings: Your Archives eNewsletter

In mid-1938 Hank P. , Bill W.’s business partner, met with Janet Blair (nonalcoholic), an editor he knew from Peekskill, New York. In November 1938, Hank wrote to Janet about Bill’s progress, revealing that Bill should be finished with the writing by December 19, 1938. Meanwhile, another editor, Tom Uzzell (also a nonalcoholic) who was a member of the New York University faculty, was contacted to work on the format.

According to Bill, Tom Uzzell “sharpened up the English but didn’t change much of anything excepting to take my story out of the story section where it had been the number one story and insisted on using it to open the book. What is now Chapter 2; I had intended to be Chapter 1.” This quote is significant because it reveals to us that in the early manuscript, Bill’s story appeared in the “Personal Stories” section and it was Tom Uzzell who moved “Bill’s Story” to Chapter 1.

By February 6, 1939, Mrs. Blair had mailed Chapters 1 and 2 to Hank, with the other chapters to follow. Excerpts from her letter note that her suggested amendments to Chapter 1: “Mr. P. , may I say a word about the continuity? It bothers me a little. Chapter 1, is Bill’s story. Right? Bill’s story includes a description of the terrible dilemma in which he was when his friend came to him; it includes what the doctors thought; it includes a brief account of the fellowship. It tells of the solution.

“When I started Chapter 2, I thought from the first line I was beginning the story of another man, as the first page is just that. On page 2, you leave him, and go on to tell of the fellowship and alcoholics in general. On page 8, you return to the man, and for about a page tell us more about him; the rest of the chapter is general. In Chapter 2, you never mention Bill or his friend, although the ‘solution,’ as you call Chapter 2, is given in Chapter 1.

“I’m not suggesting a change. Maybe I am the one who is befogged; but I am supposed to represent a reader, and I felt I should tell you this. At this moment, it seems to me it would have been smoother, to start Chapter 2 on page 2, ‘We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, know one hundred men who were once just as hopeless as Bill,” and so on.’

Bill W. replied on February 8th, thanking Mrs. Blair for having “the perception to understand what it is I want to say and the ability to say it so well. You have certainly cleared up our manuscript.”

The editing of the manuscript was likely completed by the end of February 1939; the first printings of the First Edition was completed by April 10, 1939.

On April 21, Hank wrote to Janet Blair enclosing a signed First Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, in grateful appreciation of her work.

Markings is now known as Markings: Your Archives eNewsletter. Markings is only available electronically. To sign up for digital delivery, please register on the G.S.O.’s A.A. website, www.aa.org. Markings is also available in French and Spanish.