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Monday, June 06, 2005

Acceptance

by M. Dennis Paul, Ph.D.

Once the Master was at prayer. The disciples came up to him and requested he teach them how to pray. He responded, "Two men were once walking through a field. Suddenly, they saw a huge bull charging at them. They made for the nearest fence with the bull in hot pursuit. It became very evident that they would not make the fence in time. One shouted to the other, ‘We’ve had it! Nothing will save us. Say a prayer!’. The other shouted back that he had never prayed and could not think of a prayer. The first shouted, ’It doesn’t matter! Anything will do!’ His partner, now panting, recalled what his father used to say at dinner and shouted, ‘For what we are about to receive, dear Lord, make us truly grateful.'"

Acceptance is, perhaps, one of the most difficult concepts for us to understand. For many, it implies that we must agree with something. In a sense, this is quite true. It is not, however, wholly true. We can accept something as it is, yet not agree that it should be so. We accept that taxes exist yet most, I think, do not agree with taxes. Acceptance, to some, implies resignation. This, too, is true, but not entirely true. While we may be resigned to paying taxes, certainly we can work toward eliminating them.

Acceptance is the beginning of a process of growing. It is the beginning of allowing peace into our hearts and happiness into our existence. To begin practicing acceptance, we must look upon those around us, and at the world, without judgment. We must also begin to look at ourselves in the same manner. We do not have to agree with the morals, values, or attitudes of others, nor do we have to agree with any particular event occurring in the world. We can see the beauty in ourselves, others, and the world and still recognize areas we wish to improve.

Acceptance represents freedom from judgmentalism. We begin to see things as they are, yet remain free to prefer change. This does not mean that we must work to change others, however. We do not need to coerce or manipulate. We are free to lovingly discuss our preferences and we are free to seek compromise. We are also free to accept that no change will occur and seek alternative avenues for dealing with a particular reality. We cease to demand that others, and the world, be as we want.

Acceptance represents cessation of resistance to thoughts and events that occur in our lives. We begin to appreciate that events occur as they do and that thoughts and feelings arise as they will. We no longer expend enormous energy repressing our thoughts and feelings and we cease denying what is right before us. Practicing this, we begin to see opportunity to work with what occurs. Recognizing that our thinking creates how we feel, we see opportunity to think, and thus feel differently. Recognizing that how we view a particular circumstance is more important than the circumstance itself, we open ourselves to viewing circumstances more clearly and acting upon them more wisely.

Sometimes, we must accept that we are resisting. It is from this recognition that we begin to move toward greater acceptance.

As the above parable suggests, we may not like what is, or what is about to happen, however, we must accept it and, even more, be grateful that it presents itself to us. We recognize that in every moment, things are just as they should be.

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