One of the most difficult challenges that we all face every day is acceptance. Not only is it sometimes difficult to accept some things in our lives, but to understand and work effectively with differentiation between that which we must accept, and that which we can change is also often hard.
In short form, we often have to accept other people as they are. We can ask them to consider change, and why we think they should, but we cannot and may not change them. We can guide them (as in children, students, employees) but we cannot and may not change them or their circumstances. They must do that themselves. One exception is where a young person is in a dangerous situation; in this sometimes our sense of responsibility says we must intervene. However, in such a situation, the best way to do this is to seek professional help, and not try to interfere yourself.
Deciding what we need to accept and what we can change is an eternal challenge for us.
To be happy we must accept that which we cannot, or may not, change. This can be very difficult, but it is essential. Sometimes it is so difficult to accept something that we must accept and then walk away from it. This can happen often in relationships, not just marriages and domestic partnerships, but also friendships and professional relationships.
The ‘sacred cow’ of things we may not change, are the things that we do not want to accept in other people! Only those people may decide to change any aspect of themselves or their personality. Let us look at an example:
Mary does not like the way her boyfriend Roy dresses, nor the way he acts towards his parents, he does not treat them with respect. It is right that Mary should tell Roy she does not like these things, and see if he is prepared to change them. However, if he is not prepared to change how he dresses, and how he speaks to his parents, then Mary has three choices left:
1. She accepts that is how he chooses to be, and understanding that is his right, she can let it go with complete acceptance and appreciate his other qualities. She will accept that these choices are his alone, and that she does not have to accept any responsibility for them; Mary will no longer worry about this.
2. She does not accept it, and continues to create conflict and issues about the two aspects of Roy she does not like. This will likely aggravate the problem, and will end up with either a lifetime of unhappiness and conflict together, or an ugly separation.
3. She accepts that is how he chooses to be, understands that it will always bother her too much and walk away from the relationship, in a state of calm acceptance. Both people will have a chance for happier, more fulfilled lives.
If you have children with traits you cannot accept, then it is your duty as a parent to guide them, and try to inspire change. This requires a lot of respect and communication towards your child, their differences and their right to be an individual. However, in the end these children will define their own character and reality. They may change with your inspiration and guidance, a likely scenario if your guidance is reasonable. Or they may decide to go their own way, in this case you can only accept your child for who they have chosen to be and again one of the examples given above will apply.
I met a lady at one of my seminars, who had a young son that murdered another child when he was 12 years old. He had been causing her many problems before this happened. She had tried many ways to reach and help him but she was rejected. She had never been in trouble, nor had his father and they even lived in a good neighbourhood. We talked for sometime about how she could accept that this was her son, and that he had chosen, so young, his destiny.
She said for the first two years she was afraid to go out, and she felt ashamed as she believed people blamed her. We discussed the fact that she didn’t need to like her son, or approve of his actions, but she needed instead to separate his choices from her life. She needed to accept he was who he was, and that she was not to blame. She could choose whether she had him again in her life, or not.
Most important for her, was to go out and hold her head high. She was a good mother, a caring person who was entitled to her own life without burden of guilt or shame. By helping her understand how to frame this situation, to execute her choices, accept the situation and move on was very rewarding.
Once she no longer felt shame, she could go out and look others in the eye. It quickly changed her reputation in the community, and neighbours and others stopped looking at her like she was guilty of a crime, and instead her own positive approach created a positive response in return. People began to accept her for who she was, and not just as the mother of that bad boy!
Acceptance generates more acceptance, but beware judgement also does the same – it attracts more judgement!
Try and make the effort to change the things about your life that you do not like, and that you have the power to change. Say No when you do not want to do something, and just accept that some people will be upset with you for that – others will appreciate it.
Accept each of the things in your life, or work, that you do not like and cannot change. Understand their real impact on you. Decide whether you can stay in a situation you do not like, but cannot change.
The worst thing each of us can do to ourselves, and our motivation, is to accept a situation cannot be changed and then carry on doing little else but complaining to everyone how bad it is.
What do you think will happen?
That you will meet a magician who can change it for you? Of course not!
That complaining will lighten the load? It will not, in fact it will make it heavier every time you talk about it!
The only way to lighten the load, is to accept that ‘it is what it is’ and may not be changed by you. Then decide if you can reframe it, or view it differently and thus it will not bother you anymore or if you need to move yourself to a new situation where you no longer encounter it.
Accepting the negative situations we face, and deciding on how to move forward, so they no longer bother us is an essential element in happiness. We cannot be regularly complaining and be happy! We just cannot!
Recently I met someone who had a positive situation that bothered them. Their best friend had inherited, completely unexpectedly from an unknown uncle) a fortune. This bothered this person immensely, a mix of jealously and uncertainty pervaded what was previously a great friendship. We talked through the need to accept this was an unchangeable part of the friendship, and to either celebrate it or walk away. But they needed to stop spoiling their own happiness because of their friend’s good fortune. You see, they had lost nothing! They still had their friend, they had everything they had the day before, but they had unfortunately gained an unpleasant insight into their own ego – a block of jealousy was lodged in their heart and until they could replace that with positive thoughts towards their friend, the friendship was doomed. The problem was within the person I met, not with ‘lady luck’ or their friend!
They had to accept two things
1. Their friend was indeed fortunate
2. They had discovered they were a jealous and insecure person
The decision to work it through, with some coaching and become a stronger more positive person was the ideal outcome.
Acceptance of the good fortune and deeds of others is every bit as important, as acceptance of negative traits. Acceptance of ourselves and who we are today is the first step. Then we can plan to move forward towards reaching the great potential that is locked away in every one of us!