There are a million and a half clever-sounding quotes, sayings and inspirational writings focused on the topic of acceptance. The main reason we are all so obsessed with the idea of acceptance is because true acceptance can be so powerful and rewarding when accomplished. At the same time, learning to put acceptance into practice is often much easier said than done. Surely, there are many things that can be easy to accept in life, but when it comes easy that usually is an indication that it just wasn’t that important to us, or at least at the moment the issue isn’t on our current emotional radar. For example, it isn’t too hard for me personally to accept the fact that I am not wealthy (although I surely wouldn’t mind giving it a try) because material possessions have never been too important to me. I am not claiming to be some kind of stoic saint or anything like that, it is just that as long as I can remember I never really cared much about having the newest or the best stuff. To the contrary, however, when someone I care about is dishonest with me, I have an insane time accepting that and moving on because being lied too has always been an extremely sensitive area for me.
The point is that our personal values are directly tied to our “ease of acceptance”. For someone who values winning, obviously accepting failure is probably a living nightmare for that individual or for someone who highly esteems loyalty, getting betrayed by a friend probably hurts as much as being literally stabbed in the back repeatedly with a rusty screwdriver. If you have read my previous blogs you know that I try to be an optimist first but in the end I am a realist. Therefore I find it hard when anyone advertises that they have found the key to happiness through their wondrous ability to somehow sustain an ongoing flow of inner acceptance. I know some people are better at it than others and with practice we can all get better at acceptance but in the real world with all the problems, injustices, and unexpected obstacles and pitfalls that tend to come up, it is clear that acceptance is much more of an intensive ongoing process than an instantaneous instinctual event. Sometimes not accepting something as it is or seems to be can actually be more beneficial than resigning oneself to simple acceptance. For example a person with a chronic illness who refuses to accept defeat may actually end up fighting harder for recovery that those prone to rapid acceptance. Eventually reality catches up to anyone at some point but fighting the good fight for as long as possible quite often is worth a shot as sometimes the underdog who refuses to give up can overcome the odds.
Thankfully though, through the experiences of billions of others, we know of certain life areas that we have no choice but to accept in order to prevent ourselves from proverbially banging our head against the wall repeatedly until we are out cold, only to wake up and do it again until we learn our lesson. We know for sure that we cannot change the past, no matter what, as “it is what it is” and in theory we cannot make other people change either. Sometimes things like traffic, rejection, and our losses are things that inevitably we must accept at least in the moment while working on alternatives or better options for the future. Therein lies the missing piece to acceptance that can be overlooked: The next critical step involves looking for ways to improve, adjust, adapt, and excel beyond silently consenting to acceptance of an otherwise crappy situation or circumstance. Acceptance therefore should be a springboard toward inspiration, hope and progress as opposed to just being viewed as a stagnant coping skill for temporary emotional comfort. If life stinks and there is nothing you can do about it then work on acceptance but don’t let it end there or else what’s the point? Rough times ahead? Then first evaluate and accept but then don’t forget to adjust, recover, resolve and improve... I will end with an awesome quote by Michael J Fox who sums this up extremely well: