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What Does Acceptance Mean?

Marilyn Briant is the author of The Pax Principles - Red Ribbon Winner 2020,in The Wishing Shelf Awards (UK)

Acceptance Is A Different Way of Perceiving

I am not sure why I have thinking so much about “Acceptance” lately. But I have noticed it is a word that often comes up when I’m talking with friends. So, what does it really mean?

As a child I didn't have a clue about Acceptance. I did, however, think a lot about fairness—I felt life, particularly my life, was unfair. This focus continued into adulthood as I sought spiritual awareness and began learning about a different way of perceiving what happened to me.

Even then, although I read and thought about Acceptance, I had a hard time seeing and embracing the idea, because judgmental thoughts were clouding my vision. Remembering my own experiences, I felt sad when I saw injustice, cruelty and violence. I got upset and angry over those behaviors, labeling them as wrong or bad.

It seemed however hard I tried I could not deny the existence of these awful aspects of life. Nor could I agree anyone had the right to abuse or harm others. I felt strongly that no one should simply “accept” being on the receiving end of abuse.

Growing up I was unable to escape the punishment that came my way. I could not stop my mother’s cruel words or the blows which bruised my small frame. I could also not stop the anger and hate which filled my mind and my heart.

But as I became more spiritually aware, I realized I was continuing to live my sad story, holding on to the anger and pain, refusing to forgive. And I needed to let it go. To accept the past no longer had the power to negatively affect my life. To accept I had no control over what happened to me, and feel more peace.

I realized the only person I had been hurting by my angry, unforgiving thoughts, was me. I acknowledged that while I didn’t have a choice as a child, as an adult I could walk away from an abusive relationship.

What Practicing Acceptance Means

But being able to incorporate Acceptance into my life didn't happen overnight. It was the result of learning:

  • Acceptance does not mean condoning cruelty or abuse, it simply means refusing to judge it.
  • Acceptance does not mean doing nothing to free yourself from a life in which you are denied the ability to be who you are, to be free.
  • Acceptance does not mean you should not, or cannot seek to change a situation, to have a better life.

Acceptance does mean:

  • Acknowledging what is, and refusing to attach negative emotions to the situation.
  • It means understanding that you cannot change anyone else, only yourself.
  • It means choosing to love, not hate.

Interestingly, it was a memoir I read years ago, A House in the Sky, written by Amanda Lindhout, that really clarified what Acceptance meant to me. Amanda was a Canadian freelance journalist who was kidnapped in Somalia and held for fifteen months. During that time, she was beaten, raped and tortured.

As I read the story, I wondered how anyone could survive what she went through, but when I read the words below, I realized it was Acceptance that allowed her to do so. She was in a physically powerless situation, but she could choose to find a safe place in her mind:

"I was safe and protected. It was where all the voices that normally tore through my head expressing fear and wishing for death went silent, until there was only one left speaking. It was a calmer, stronger voice, one that to me felt divine. It said, 'See? You are okay, Amanda. It's only your body that's suffering, and you are not your body. The rest of you is fine."

Yes, those words so beautifully describe what Acceptance offers. If I am trapped in a situation where there is hate and ignorance, I have a choice about how I respond to it. I can choose to acknowledge there is more to me than my body. I can choose to go inside, connect with my soul-self and rise above it.

Acceptance Is A Choice

Acceptance does not mean that I do not want out of the darkness, that I have no hope or desire to escape. It means that when a situation is beyond my control, I may choose to accept what is. I may decide not to hate, but to rise above what is happening—to connect with my light in the darkness.

After all, is there a way I should think, speak or act? Is there any way I have to feel? Or a path I am supposed to take? I believe there is not. There is only my Acceptance, my decision that I want to live from love, to feel peace.

Who knows what kinds of challenges and opportunities for growth life will continue to offer me? Who can say when they will happen? I have no way of knowing. But I do know that whatever happens, choosing Acceptance will mean I have control over what I am thinking, what I am feeling.

It will give me the freedom to change what I perceive. Allow the beauty within me, to guide how I feel about what is going on outside me. And Acceptance will bring me peace.

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