Acceptance has many layers - like Shrek says, it's like an onion. You can accept a gift, news, other people, attitudes, yourself. Or not. Acceptance is primarily a choice and something that you keep on choosing. It's not a blanket attitude that once applied, continues to be in place. It can be given/withdrawn when you choose.
I discovered that other people, when they sense you're acceptance of them, respond to you with overwhelming gratefulness at times. A friend of mine split with her husband and many others judged the husband harshly. Anyway the couple re-united and the judgment of the husband remained with some people which destroyed friendships. However I determined to accept them both and not judge them despite the stories I heard during their short-term separation. My choice to accept them was received with such gratitude and tears.
Sometimes acceptance arrives slowly. Like, it takes a few times of meeting someone before acceptance kicks in. This is apparent when starting a new job. People are always friendly and polite at first – after all, that’s good manners. And after a bit of time, these people will just relax and accept you. It’s wonderful. You can feel this when you’re the one that others are assessing. And you can also sense when you’re considered ‘OK’ and accepted. They start to include you in their stories, establish eye contact and ask your help.
It’s a gracious and specialised skill to learn how to accept a person while withholding judgment about something you don’t like. I know I can tell Meyles anything – warts and all – about me. I know he will still love and accept me. It doesn’t mean he won’t tell me the truth about how he sees things, but his acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean he approves of an attitude or behaviour of mine. I would not choose to trust Meyles without knowing this about him. There is a link between growing levels of trust and acceptance. John Powell, author and Jesuit Priest puts it this way:
If I show you my nakedness, please don’t make me feel ashamed
Another aspect of acceptance is learning to accept the level of friendship that other people offer. I used to feel disappointed in people if they didn’t demonstrate the same level of relationship I wanted. But you can’t force people to accept you – it defeats the purpose! Acceptance has to be freely given – a gift – or it’s not acceptance at all. Placing the pressure of a friendship upon someone is the best way to drive them away, and make them feel manipulated. It’s remarkable how acceptance can pay off over time, as people learn to trust and give more and more of themselves – because they feel safe and accepted.
It's OK to not accept too in certain circumstances. A couple of times in my life I have chosen to distance myself from people who were not good for my wellbeing. I felt manipulated, controlled and anxious and found myself stressed whenever I had to spend time with them. I did not want to accept such an unhelpful relationship in my life. So I have exercised my muscle of self-management, and distanced myself. So when there are things within your power to control which don't align with your wellbeing, you are wise to choose to not accept. To look after yourself.
I continue to learn about acceptance - specially when it comes to accepting circumstances which I don't like, or accepting others' differentness. It is a practised skill that you get better and better at the more you rehearse it.
What’s your response to this blog? Any comments? Do you agree, or feel you’d like to add something? Please go ahead and comment.