There is a popular story in the Bible about a man called Job that perfectly illustrates the need and power of acceptance in our daily lives: Job was a wealthy and righteous man who experienced a series of devastating trials. These trials included the loss of his wealth, health, and children. That is pretty much all we pray for, right?
As a human with feelings, Job expressed his pain and frustration, questioning why he was suffering despite his righteousness – despite putting in his best to ensure everything goes right in his life. He even engaged in a lengthened dialogue with his friends, contemplating the possible explanations for his suffering. And, as with many suffering in the world, there really was no good reason for it (at least, none that the human mind could make sense of).
However, in the later chapters of the Book of Job, God finally speaks up, revealing that it was not for Job to understand the reason for the suffering but rather endure it (while doing what is right). To which Job responded, “I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).
After this complete acceptance of the overwhelming complexity and randomness of life – the acceptance that things don’t always go as we expect or desire – Job was able to move on with his life, and even live a much abundant and happier life.
In life, pain – disappointments, lack, loss, etcetera – are inevitable. And, the sooner we learn acceptance, the better for us:
What Is Acceptance?
Acceptance is a conscious, nonjudgmental, and open-hearted embrace of the impermanence of life – a willingness to face challenges directly, and an active choice to engage with the world without avoidance or attachment.
Acceptance is the embrace of “fait accompli” – the acknowledgement that we can not do anything about what has already transpired, but can only move forward from it. For example, when faced with the loss of a loved one, acceptance is the recognition that we cannot bring them back, but we can honour their memory and find a way to live our lives in a way that pays tribute to their legacy.
Acceptance isn’t just tolerating or resigning to life’s challenges. It isn’t no longer caring about what happens – it is not the same as saying, “It is what it is” or “This is just how things are”. It doesn’t mean to stick with a bad situation or let things fall apart. Rather, it is about recognizing where you are, and not getting stuck in negative thoughts and emotions about your experiences. But rather looking forward with an understanding of your current reality. It is thinking about how to get another bowl of soup rather than crying over the spilt one.
Just like Job, feeling your feelings is okay – it’s a natural response. Acknowledging it and letting it flow is part of acceptance. Acceptance is simply not holding on to the pain.
What is the importance/benefit of acceptance?
When we are able to practice acceptance of ourselves, others, and the reality we live in despite the flaws and quirks, then we are said to be practising radical acceptance. Practising acceptance is important because it is only when we acknowledge the facts (rather than deny them) that we can really improve ourselves, our relationship with others, and the condition we find ourselves.
Embracing radical acceptance is a powerful practice that can profoundly transform your life, bringing about a multitude of benefits in mental health, personal growth, and overall wellness, including the following:
- Improved pain tolerance and reduced pain.
- More satisfaction with relationships.
- Enhanced sense of job control.
- Greater emotional regulation.
- Increased positive actions.
- Greater sense of peace.
- Heightened compassion.
- Increased reasonableness.
- Decreased blame toward others.
- Improved psychological well-being.
- Encouragement to be your authentic self.
- Diminished depression and pain-related anxiety
“Happiness can exist only in acceptance.”George Orwell
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How do you develop acceptance in life?
Research has shown that there are key concepts and steps that can help us develop and practice radical acceptance. Here are some of the most important ones:
Nonattachment means not overly clinging to things, especially material possessions, and recognizing that everything is impermanent. It’s realizing that your happiness isn’t tied to people, circumstances, or things.
For instance, if your favourite mug breaks, don’t let it ruin your day. It’s just a mug, after all. Accept that it has broken and that you may need to get a replacement.
Non-avoidance is about confronting uncomfortable situations or truths in your life rather than avoiding them.
Instead of avoiding a difficult conversation (or denying there is a problem or unmet need), accept/acknowledge and face it head-on. If you’re unhappy at work or in your relationship, address the issues with your boss or partner rather than hoping they’ll magically disappear.
Nonjudgment refers to refraining from evaluating something as good or bad, right or wrong. It involves keeping an open mind and not hastily passing judgment on people or situations.
For instance, when you see someone acting aggressively, reserve judgment – don’t label them evil. Maybe they’re having a bad day or going through something you’re unaware of. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should go hang out with them, but you should acknowledge that even that aggression is temporary. Same too with the person you see acting all nice.
Tolerance means allowing challenging experiences, whether physical, emotional, or mental, to take place without resisting or denying them. It’s about enduring difficulties without trying to push them away.
For example, if you’re stuck in traffic, don’t let frustration take over. Instead, find something that will help you endure the delay. Perhaps, you can listen to music or a podcast. If there is objectively nothing you can do about the circumstances, tolerance is the wise choice.
Willingness is the conscious choice to be open to experiences and not avoid or judge them. It’s about embracing life with an accepting attitude. As Fredriche Nitchze would say, you’ve got to develop “Amor Fati” (i.e. Love of Fate)
Decide to be open to new experiences; even if that also means opening yourself up to uncertainties. If you’ve never tried a particular cuisine, be willing to give it a shot instead of instantly saying no. If you’ve never done something before or visited a place before, don’t instantly rule it off. Rather, engage your curiosity and try out new things. This often leads to learning and growth and sometimes creates opportunities.
Recognize Nonacceptance Mechanisms
Nonacceptance mechanisms are cognitive and emotional processes we engage in to avoid facing difficult things. These mostly happen unconsciously and it takes self-awareness to notice them:
For example, if you are diagnosed with a serious health condition or discover that your partner has been unfaithful, it is in your best interest to accept the reality of the situation, rather than ignoring, dismissing, or trying to convince yourself that the problem does not exist.
Mindfulness involves paying close attention to your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and the environment around you, with a calm and non-critical attitude.
If you’re feeling tired or anxious, accept that and take a few deep breaths to calm yourself down. Then, consider whether there’s anything you can do to address the source of your fatigue or anxiety. If not, simply focus on staying present in the moment and participating in the meeting to the best of your ability.
If you’re struggling with acceptance, consider seeking help from a therapist or support group. Acknowledge that seeking support is a step toward accepting your challenges.
Understand that becoming a master of acceptance takes time. It’s like learning a new skill. Be patient with yourself as you develop these abilities.
Even on a tough day, practice finding something to be grateful for. This could be as simple as appreciating a kind gesture or a moment of peace amidst chaos.
Remember, acceptance is about making these steps a part of your everyday life. With practice, you’ll find it easier to navigate the gap between your expectations and reality.
Conclusion: Embrace acceptance and move forward.
The crucial wisdom is learning to accept things as they are, even if we don’t understand them, and to forge ahead. That is the power of acceptance. And, it includes not denying the issues we have or the uncertainties, but rather acknowledging them and working through them as best we can.
Here are other content you might find useful:
- The True Meaning of Patience:
- 10 Ways To Develop Self-Awareness as a Young Adult [The Beginner’s Guide]
- The Habit of Gratitude: How Practicing Gratitude Daily Changes Your Life
- Stop Chasing, Start Attracting: This May Be The Secret To Getting What You Want
- 15 Practices That Will Help You Overcome Inferiority Complex
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