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To Accept or Not Accept: An Ability We All Need to Have
Over the years, in my own life, I have learned there are many words that I think I understand, but really don't. And some words have a lot of emotional energy attached to them, which affects what I think the meaning is, when it really is quite something else. "Acceptance" is one of those words.
Really understanding the concept of acceptance and gaining the ability to use it in my life has made a significant difference.
To accept, by definition, is to agree to something and thereafter be bound to act in accordance with it.
Indeed, there is a legal definition to this effect, but even in everyday life, if I accept something, that means I am willing to have it.
To accept can also be
- to receive willingly,
- to give approval to,
- to endure without protest or reaction,
- to regard as normal or inevitable,
- to recognize as true,
- to agree to take.
The root of the word is from the Latin acceptare, from ad- + capere, to take.
What is not included in this definition is that things can be accepted with a whole range of feelings, from acceptance by defeat, to accepting something because one thinks it cannot be changed, to accepting something with resignation because one feels nothing can be done about it, to joyfully accepting love, a victory, or acknowledgement of work well done.
And I also seem to have some degree of honesty attached to this word...the possibility that one might accept a gift, for example, with thanks and a smile, even if one doesn't like it, showing acceptance, but not truly accepting it.
The other side of acceptance is rejection, which, by definition, is the refusal to accept, submit to, or take for some purpose or use. The root of the word is from the Latin rejectus, from re- + jacere, literally to throw away from oneself.
I have in my mind the idea that as a "good" person, I am supposed to be "accepting" and allow things to be as they are...that I shouldn't reject people or ideas...that "acceptance" is good and "rejection" is bad.
But...all impressions aside, and looking only at function, both acceptance and rejection are vital to life, for they are the very anatomy of choice--the ability to select that which is preferable for a particular reason or purpose.
If we only accept and never reject, there can be no change. Even with something as mundane as housework, we can see the necessity of rejection. We accept the window, and reject the dirt. We accept the tender tips of asparagus for soup and reject the woody stems to the compost pile. We accept the warm sweater and reject the package to the garbage can. Without rejection, our homes would be full of garbage to the ceiling and falling out the windows!
Acceptance and rejection are used throughout Nature to sustain life. A winter storm accepts the living tree and rejects its dead leaves to make way for spring growth. The immune system in my body accepts nourishing foods and reject viruses that cause disease. A bird accepts ripe fruit to eat and rejects fruit that is not yet ripened.
A sculptor draws out a form from the clay or marble by rejects bits of material until the accepted form takes shape. As a writer, I hone my communication by accepting that which expresses my ideas most clearly, and reject words that don't get the idea across. An actor accepts being a character, and rejects anything that isn't that character.
Within ourselves, we can accept those qualities we wish to have and cultivate, and reject those characteristics that are less desirable to us. We can make all kinds of changes in our minds and bodies through acceptance and rejection. We can accept kindness and reject cruelty. We can accept foods that lead to our bodies being healthy, and reject those that don't. We can accept our own goodness, and reject pain and sorrow.
Basically, we create our lives through accepting what we want and rejecting what we don't want. What happens when we accept something is that we take it, we have it, we go into agreement that is it OK. What we are, what we have, what our world is, is that which we accept. And since that is the case, we can accept that which contributes to the wellbeing of ourselves and the world at large, and reject that which doesn't. We can always make a choice to accept that which will lead to a result that we want, and reject that which doesn't lead to the result we want.
Some years ago, Larry and I had quite a conversation about this idea of "accepting someone as they are." He said, "I don't want you to accept me as I am. I want you to accept all the good I am as a spiritual being, but I don't want you to accept my pain and doubts and fears and flaws. I want you to help me get through anything that is keeping me from being myself as a spirit, so I can be more free and express what I really am."
And this has been our agreement since: to accept--to be in agreement with and take—the good in each other and not accept—-not be in agreement with and discard—that which is not our highest good.
Looking at myself and others, it seems that too often we accept as inevitable or unchangeable many things that don't support life which we could change, if we made an intention to change and took the actions that resulted in that change. When we accept things as they are, they tend to stay the same, or even get worse, if they are already headed in that direction.
Larry and I created this blog and others around the subject of “life beyond industrialization” because we could see how destructive industrial processes are to both human life and the ecosystems of the Earth. We decided to no longer accept industrialization as inevitable, unchangeable or true, and set out to show ourselves and others that there were other choices we could accept instead. And by accepting more lifely choices day-in-and-day-out and sharing these ideas with others, it becomes possible to change the world simply through choosing to accept lifely choices and reject those that are not.
I've learned that I don't need to accept everything, but I do need to be able to experience anything, and that is quite different. To experience something is to be able to be there and observe that something is as it is as the basis of knowledge. If I can see something clearly as it is, then I can understand it, and make a choice to accept it or reject it.
There are many things in this world I do accept...love, beauty, creativity, order, peace, abundance, health, and many other things that bring me joy as a spiritual being. I have accepted these things by choice, and I know they are mine.