Eileen Flanagan

Eileen Flanagan  is a leader in the Quaker community

When to change, when to let go?

It’s a profound question that each of us will be faced with countless times throughout our life.  Whether the question pertains to leaving a job, receiving cancer treatment, or another challenging decision, the best choice is not always clear.

The Wisdom to Know the Difference, When to Change – and When to Let Go, written by Eileen Flanagan – a leader in the Quaker community – explores this fundamental question from a diversity of angles.

This enlightening read is a rich guide to the essence of both personal growth and spiritual evolution, which – in a nutshell – is the magical dance between wholehearted surrender or full force change.

The Serenity Prayer

The Wisdom to Know the Difference is inspired by the deeply meaningful Serenity Prayer, which has been a source of refuge to millions during times of personal upheaval.  At the same time, the book draws upon the teachings of many faith traditions including Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity.  It also includes knowledge garnered from the field of psychology and programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Here is the most famous version of the Serenity Prayer:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can change
And wisdom to know the difference.”

People often feel stuck with their lot in life.  Flanagan argues that it’s crucial to distinguish between letter go and giving up.  She says:

“On the one hand, this book rejects the idea that God decided your lot in life long ago, so if your are poor, or sick, or in a bad marriage, it is because ‘you were put on this earth to suffer’… That theology may lead to surrender, but not serenity.”

“On the other hand, this book also rejects the recently popular pseudo-spirituality that claims that the universe is a vending machine at your command and you can have whatever you want if you just visualize it, an approach that tends to focus people on their material wants rather than on wisdom.”

7 Spiritual Principles to Help You Live Fearlessly

Change?  Surrender?  What to do?  How do you know?

The Wisdom to Know the Difference offers 7 different but interconnected approaches to help you decided, each one the focus for a full chapter.  Flanagan calls them  “7 spiritual lessons to help you live fearlessly.”

  1. The Courage to Question
  2. Knowing Yourself
  3. Seeking Divine Wisdom
  4. Shifting Your Perspective
  5. Practicing Loving Acceptance
  6. Letting Go of Outcomes
  7. Finding Wisdom in Community

The book offers a wealth of personal stories to illustrate how real people – like you and me – employed these seven strategies to find clarity in the midst of difficult.  At the same time, it draws upon the spiritual wisdom of the ages.  Each chapter ends with a series of “queries” – thought-provoking reflections – to help you access your own inner spring of wisdom.

The Wisdom to Know the Difference is truly a treasure trove of deep and transformative wisdom. Chances are you will want to sip and savor each chapter to allow its clarity, beauty, and wisdom to deeply penetrate your mind, heart, and soul.  On the other hand, a particular theme might just call to you and be your perfect starting part.

I know you will find so much courage and guidance in the many real-life stories contained in this book.  They are like blueprints for navigating change and surrender.  Witnessing someone else’s courage can give you exactly the impetus you need to change or surrender yourself.

A Taste of Wisdom

This book is so replete with inspiration, ideas,  stories, and practical wisdom that I find it impossible to cover the full territory in a short book review.  So, I thought I would share 12 inspirational quotes gathered from among the pages to give you a taste of The Wisdom to Know the Difference.

  • “When I talk about changing your mind, it is not to become someone different from who you really are.  It is to strip away the socially conditioned, limited thoughts of the False Self to discover the person you were made to be, focusing on your deep joy instead of your superficial wants or fears.”
  • “Accepting yourself, faults included, is a pre-requisite to wisdom.”
  • “Self-discovery is a life-long process.”
  • “Listening within is crucial to accessing wisdom.”
  • “Excessive business can also lead to stress and anxiety, known to make inward listening more difficult.”
  • “Our thoughts are powerful, but part of the reason they are so powerful is that they often determine our actions.”
  • “The people in our lives can often help us develop self-knowledge, reflecting our strengths and weaknesses to us like a mirror.  We do not need to believe everything everyone tells us, but we should be open to the possibility that others see things about us that we don’t.”
  • “Divine guidance is not always so rapid or clear.  Many people experience it as more of a gradual dawning, like a sunrise rather than a lightening bolt.”
  • “There are some things that should be changed, only not by us.  Part of wisdom is figuring out which problems are ours to solve.”
  • “Whenever God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.”  (from the Sound of Music)
  • “The trick is to acknowledge anger, without getting stuck in blame, which is disempowering, rather than empowering.  Only when you have acknowledged your anger can you discern whether it is a sign that you need to change something or accept what cannot be changed.”
  • “So how do you let go of fear and cultivate trust?  Trust does not always come in a dramatic spiritual insight.  Sometimes it grows gradually, as we nervously take each step.”

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading The Wisdom to Know the Difference. Eileen Flanagan clearly has a huge heart and a profoundly reflective mind.  This is a book I will want to return to again and again. I see how it could easily become a wise spiritual companion for an entire lifetime.

You can learn more about Eileen Flanagan by visiting her website: Eileen Flanagan

Thank you to  TLC Book Tours for the invitation to write this review.  Note:  None of the links in this article is an affiliate link.

How do you discern when to make a change, when to surrender?


Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious!  Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always.  With love, Sandra

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