An underlying theme of my book, Losing Control, Finding Serenity, is that acceptance is fundamental to reducing our need to control. Readers agree. The most highlighted sentence of Amazon’s best selling eBook version is:
“The more we accept people and things for who and what they are, the less we need to control.”
Readers also recognize the folly of trying to control others, a realization present in all acceptance stories. The second most highlighted part is:
“At bottom, excessive control represents our attempt to change another’s very nature and spirit. But because another’s true spirit cannot be changed except by that person alone—our efforts to do so are not only fruitless, they are also harmful. It is not about the other person as much as it is about us and our unwillingness to accept life as it is.”
The Importance of Acceptance
More and more people in all walks of life are coming to understand the importance of acceptance* to their overall well-being, not the least of which is the vital role it plays in improving (and healing) family, love, work and interpersonal relationships. (See “Five Good Reasons For Accepting People As They Are.”)
The acceptance paradigm is the very essence of The Serenity Prayer and First Step of the widely practiced 12 Step Programs. It is an intrinsic part of many spiritual beliefs and practices and fundamental to most mind, body and spirit teachings.
Why, then, is it that we—myself included—find it so difficult to practice “Acceptance?”
We readily recognize how important it is, but so often don’t or can’t do it! Instead, we continue to direct, pressure, resist, criticize, manipulate—almost anything except accept our powerlessness over others and most things. When others share their acceptance stories, most reveal that at first it wasn’t easy to let go and accept things the way they were.
Keys to Practicing Acceptance
I have given serious thought to this quandary and how we can overcome or at least minimize it. I believe there are five fundamental, interrelated obstacles to our being able to effectively practice acceptance. Consequently, the keys to success in practicing acceptance lay in our ability and willingness to overcome them.
*We are too afraid. We are fearful if we accept the way others are, we—or they– will somehow be harmed. For example, if we allow our children to schedule their homework or study for tests as they see fit, we may be fearful that they will falter at school. Similarly, if we accept annoying aspects of another’s personality, we may be afraid we would be giving up too much of (or not be able to fend for) ourselves.
Facing and processing such fears makes it much easier to accept others and things as they are.
*We expect too much. Simply put, if we expect, we can’t accept! We thus need to lower or moderate our expectations of others in order to accept them as they are.
*We lack trust and faith. Many of us simply do not trust or have faith that things will work out okay if we accept “what is.” At work, for example, we may be struggling with a complex business problem over which we have very little influence, yet are reticent to let it“play out” by itself because we don’t have faith that the outcome will be positive.
Trust and faith can be fostered by remembering that almost always there are multiple paths to acceptable destinations and solutions.
*We are not humble enough. Accepting people and things as they are requires humility. We have to be willing to let go of such beliefs as “my way of doing it is the best way” and “I know what’s best for others.” We need to understand that what works well for us might not work well for others.
In short, we need to be more humble! It helps if we realize that we are not nearly as omniscient or omnipotent as we are prone to believe.
*We aren’t courageous enough. It takes considerable courage to overcome the above obstacles–and we often fall short.
Meaningful guidance is found in the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me…Courage to Change the Things I Can.”
We can try to face and move through our fears.
We can lower our expectations of others and things.
We can have greater faith that everything will turn out okay if we accept others and “what is.”
And we can strive to be more humble.
What do you do to practice acceptance?
Please share your acceptance stories with myself and others and let us know what helped you most.
In the meantime, remember to
Let It Go!
*Acceptance does not mean that we need condone or excuse what we find distasteful about another’s ways or dislike about a situation. Simply, that we need to accept that is the way the person or thing is and that it is beyond our power to meaningfully change him or her or it.