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The Wisdom to Know the Difference: When to Make a Change-and When to Let Go Paperback – September 2, 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The Wisdom to Know the Difference is about being able to change. We human beings are basically the same, wherever we come from, and despite the small physical differences in the shape of our noses, the color of our hair and so on. We are the same because we all have the same potential to undergo both positive and negative experiences. What's more, we also have the same potential to transform ourselves and our attitudes. What is important is that we can make a change and transform ourselves into better, happier people."-His Holiness the Dalai Lama

More praise for THE WISDOM TO KNOW THE DIFFERRENCE: "We've all heard these famous lines 'grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the courage to change the things I can' but we rarely hear how to find the wisdom to know and act on the difference. Until now. This beautiful book weaves together fascinating stories and timeless wisdom from across spiritual traditions to create a practical map for all of us to navigate this very question." -Diana Winston, Director of Mindfulness Education, UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center, and author of Wide Awake: A Buddhist Guide for Teens

"In The Wisdom to Know the Difference Eileen Flanagan effortlessly weaves the wisdom of the ordinary people she has met on her path with the extraordinary wisdom of many spiritual teachers into a rich tapestry. I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking spiritual wisdom."-Karen Casey, Ph.D. author of Each Day A New Beginning

"Full of wisdom and everyday stories that become parables in Flanagan's hands.'" -Phyllis Tickle, author of The Divine Hours and The Great Emergence

"Eileen Flanagan's delightful book is a source of wisdom and encouragement to which you'll return again and again. Blessing and inspiration await on every page." -Brent Bill, Quaker minister and author Sacred Compass: The Way of Spiritual Discernment

"This book draws from actual situations of real-life people as they struggle to become their true selves." -Suzanne Farnham, founder of Listening Hearts Ministries and co- author of Listening Hearts and Grounded in God

"Flanagan goes far and wide to absorb and integrate teachings from many great traditions of the world. The result is a fusion that inspires and uplifts the reader." -Derek Lin, The Tao of Daily Life

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"The Wisdom to Know the Difference is about being able to change. We human beings are basically the same, wherever we come from, and despite the small physical differences in the shape of our noses, the color of our hair and so on. We are the same because we all have the same potential to undergo both positive and negative experiences. What's more, we also have the same potential to transform ourselves and our attitudes. What is important is that we can make a change and transform ourselves into better, happier people."-His Holiness the Dalai Lama

More praise for THE WISDOM TO KNOW THE DIFFERRENCE: "We've all heard these famous lines 'grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the courage to change the things I can' but we rarely hear how to find the wisdom to know and act on the difference. Until now. This beautiful book weaves together fascinating stories and timeless wisdom from across spiritual traditions to create a practical map for all of us to navigate this very question." -Diana Winston, Director of Mindfulness Education, UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center, and author of Wide Awake: A Buddhist Guide for Teens

"In The Wisdom to Know the Difference Eileen Flanagan effortlessly weaves the wisdom of the ordinary people she has met on her path with the extraordinary wisdom of many spiritual teachers into a rich tapestry. I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking spiritual wisdom."-Karen Casey, Ph.D. author of Each Day A New Beginning

"Full of wisdom and everyday stories that become parables in Flanagan's hands.'" -Phyllis Tickle, author of The Divine Hours and The Great Emergence

"Eileen Flanagan's delightful book is a source of wisdom and encouragement to which you'll return again and again. Blessing and inspiration await on every page." -Brent Bill, Quaker minister and author Sacred Compass: The Way of Spiritual Discernment

"This book draws from actual situations of real-life people as they struggle to become their true selves." -Suzanne Farnham, founder of Listening Hearts Ministries and co- author of Listening Hearts and Grounded in God

"Flanagan goes far and wide to absorb and integrate teachings from many great traditions of the world. The result is a fusion that inspires and uplifts the reader." -Derek Lin, The Tao of Daily Life

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: TarcherPerigee; Reprint edition (September 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585428299
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585428298
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #788,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Eileen Flanagan is a Quaker writer who we're going to hear a whole lot more about in coming years. She's just finding her voice nationally in this book--and what a voice it is! Start reading "The Wisdom to Know the Difference" like I did and you'll find yourself curled up in an easy chair for a few hours--as if a best friend is sitting across from you, sharing a cup of tea and stories about the spiritual challenges we all face in life.

Quakers are well known for their spiritual disciplines in discernment and Eileen writes out of that tradition. The final section of her book, for example, describes Quaker clearness committees--and suggests ways these principles might be adapted in our lives.

The title of her book comes from the Serenity Prayer, long associated with the 12-step recovery movement. But this is not specifically a 12-step book. If you're looking for a spiritual overview of the 12 steps, I'd recommend Rabbi Rami Shapiro's new Recovery--the Sacred Art: The Twelve Steps As Spiritual Practice (Art of Spiritual Living).

This book is about discernment--choosing the next step in turbulent times. "The wisdom to know the difference between what we can and cannot change is central to my definition of a well-lived life," she writes. In the course of under 300 pages, Eileen takes us many places both within the lives of dozens of real men and women--and even to some other parts of our cultural world. Most importantly, she wants us to enlarge our vision of God--and enlarge our hopes for our own lives.

She's a humble guide.
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Format: Hardcover
I will start with a disclaimer: I rarely read self-help books, simply because they strike me either as idiotic or re-packaged versions of the common sense your grandmother would share if you asked her. For this reason, I may have missed out on some very helpful stuff.

Fortunately, I did not miss this excellent and thoughtful examination of a very basic human dilemma: When do you take action to try to change a situation, and when do you accept it? Like me, are you a control freak, anxiously and endlessly scheming lest your world (or your kids' worlds) fall apart? And how do you make peace with stuff that's driving you crazy? Or are you a fatalist, giving up before you start because you've 'learned' there's no point in trying to make a difference?

Through detailed interviews, Flanagan examines the dynamics of change in the lives of those who have undergone extreme life challenges and come out stronger and better for it. Each person, in his or her own words describes the valuable lessons they've learned, whether of acceptance, or of learning to question old beliefs that no longer serve a productive purpose. Each person also represents a different faith tradition--this is a book written around a prayer, after all--and we learn how individuals learn to discern the leading of the Spirit in their own 'languages', whether Muslim, Christian, or Jewish.

The Wisdom to Know the Difference is an entirely hopeful book; its goal is to motivate readers to trust more courageously, to act more boldly, and believe more intelligently. For this reader, it was a success; I can point to several positive changes that have come from reading it twice.
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Format: Kindle Edition
As we well know, not everything can be controlled. I have a favorite saying: Life happens while you're busy making plans. Things don't always turn out the way we plan--or hope--and despite the futility, many of us will still try to control what cannot be controlled.

In The Wisdom to Know the Difference, Eileen Flanagan sets out to bring examples of such instances to the forefront to help us figure out what we truly may be able to change and how to let go of what we can't.

As with most spiritual/self-help books, you read with the hope that one of the stories will closely resemble the earth-shaking issue you're going through for a chance to glean insight to the way others have successfully dealt with the problem.

Some of the examples used were fairly serious: a mother who prayed her son wouldn't have to go to Iraq; he went and gave his life for our country; a man who becomes paralyzed after a serious accident. These are two extreme examples of life-changing events that could not be controlled; and, since neither of these outcomes can be changed, it seems acceptance--voluntary or otherwise--is the only way to move forward.

Everyday stressors and anger were also touched on, which is an area that can be changed. Finding a way to successfully deal with stress and anger could make a huge difference in someone's quality of life. However, there weren't any new techniques for coping, just the usual breathing and meditating exercises--not that they aren't viable options, but sometimes after taking a breath, I'd still like to throttle someone.

Then there are the "true believers", those who have faith that if they just trust in God, all will be taken care of. I tested this theory out once when I was short on money and the rent was due...
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