When you think of acceptance, what comes to mind?
Do you think that accepting what is means that nothing changes? Or do you think that accepting what is right now means everything can change?
Acceptance might feel like a gift for some people, and for others, it might look like they have to put up with something they don’t want; they have to accept the unacceptable.
But do they?
Accepting the unacceptable
This subject came up recently in a conversation with a client who questioned accepting something that is wrong. Now, no one would advocate that you should accept the unacceptable. If you think that someone’s behaviour towards you, or anyone else, is unacceptable, I am not asking you to accept this blindly.
But, let’s think about the idea of what you consider unacceptable? For me, any form of violence is unacceptable; mental manipulation is unacceptable. There are other things that I draw the line at, but we don’t need to discuss them here; let’s keep this clean.
You might find it unacceptable if someone behaves in a way that you believe isn’t correct or loving, or you might want them to be tidier and, whilst everyone can have a preference, is their behaviour wrong — or just wrong to you?
Sometimes what you consider unacceptable is unacceptable to your version of reality; someone’s behaviour isn’t matching your expectation of how you imagine someone should behave. So if you feel that you’re up against unacceptable behaviour, ask yourself if it really is unacceptable or unacceptable to what you believe to be true?
However, if you reluctantly concede that the behaviour isn’t your choice, it isn’t the way you want things to be, but it isn’t unacceptable, then this might be the time to accept that other people see the world differently way you.
Seeing things differently
If you accept that the other person sees things differently, you can see that they aren’t wrong. It’s just that you have your version of how things should be, and they have a different version.
And, rather than imagine that you’re generously accepting their faults and quirks, accept that these things are perfectly acceptable to the other person even if they aren’t to you. Although you think you’re right, they probably do too.
Surprisingly, when you let go of trying to prove that you’re right and the other person has it all wrong, you might find that things change almost by magic. Somehow they stop doing the thing that you found unacceptable. Or did you just stop finding it unacceptable?
You can accept the other person unconditionally, and don’t we all want that? This applies to a partner, a parent, sibling or children, after all, you probably love them, so why not love them unconditionally?
Accepting what you don’t like
But how about the annoying person at work? Again, if you let go of thinking that the way you do things is the only way and getting frustrated that other people just aren’t playing the game, you’ll find accepting people as they are easier. You might not like the behaviour, but you’ll be able to accept it.
And how about accepting yourself? We all have things we’d like to improve or change, and accepting yourself as you are doesn’t mean that these changes can’t happen, but it does mean that you can be happy with yourself right now as you make the changes.
This might confuse you? You might think that if you accept the way you are now, you’re giving in and that this is the way you’ll always be, but that’s not so.
As the Serenity Prayer, written by Reinhold Niebuhr and used by AA, says, ‘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.’
If there is something you want to change, your weight, your habits, your relationship or anything else that is in your power to change, go for it. And enjoy the changes along the way, accept each step.
But, just as the prayer says, sometimes there are things that you can’t change, if someone you care about dies, for example, or you get made redundant because the company you work for has gone bust, or you get a disease, you can’t change what has happened. You can rage against it, keep going over and over in your mind the reasons this is unfair, and get more upset accept it.
When you accept the things you can’t change, you’re able to move forward, grieve, get a new job, to become healthy, but when you get into a, ‘it’s not fair’ or, ‘how could he do that to me’ thought loop, you’re stuck with no forward movement.
You know that you get into different moods, and moods can be like the British weather, every season in one day.
So why would you try and do anything with the mood that you’re in? When you accept that, yes, you might feel a bit down or fed up, scared or angry, and so what? You don’t make the mood mean anything about you. Imaging that the mood tells you anything about you or your life is like building a car out of the sand on the beach and then jumping in it and trying to drive home.
Neither the car nor the mood is real or lasting.
Accepting yourself, other people, and what is happening in this moment is full of peace and potential.
If you accept that.