“Our level of joy (and therefore strength and healing) is directly proportional to our level of acceptance” (Tim Hansel).
ACCEPTANCE IS A VITAL VIRTUE, BOTH FOR OUR OWN SAKE AND THE SAKE OF OTHERS. When there is something that should be accepted but we can’t bring ourselves to do it, frustration is usually the result. We bog down in misery, and we inflict discomfort on those around us. “For after all,” as Longfellow wrote, “the best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.”
(1) Ourselves. All of us have room for improvement (and improvement should be a passionate goal), but we need to accept that even a perfect version of ourselves would still be different from anybody else in the world. So I like Henry Winkler’s observation, “A human being’s first responsibility is to shake hands with himself.”
(2) Our fellow human beings. If other people don’t test your patience, then you’re just not paying attention to the world you live in. The truth is, people can be vexing. But we need to recognize that not everything about other people that displeases us needs to be changed. Sometimes people do need to change, obviously, but at other times we simply need to accept their differences as a part of the spice of life.
(3) Our circumstances. I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody who thought that the world is perfect just as it is. Life in this world leaves a lot to be desired, to put it mildly. But many of the circumstances that distress us are beyond our control. We can’t change them — we can only accept them and choose freely how we will respond to them.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.” Genuine acceptance does not mean complacency; it means coming to terms with reality, all the while working for whatever growth is possible. And nowhere is this more needed than in our relationships. “A friend is one who knows you as you are, understands where you’ve been, accepts who you’ve become, and still gently invites you to grow.” All of us want friends like that, surely. The question is: will we be friends like that?
“God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other” (Reinhold Niebuhr).