Life is full of challenges. Big ones like injustice, small ones like being late for a meeting, and even small-ones-that-seem-big-in-the-moment like when the baby just won’t go to sleep.
Acceptance can make the situation a lot better, but why should we accept a situation if we don’t like it or if we think it’s wrong? Well, first of all, it’s happening. No way around that. But beyond that, it’s important to remember that accepting something doesn’t mean you like it, or you think it’s okay.
Whether you face pain, injustice, betrayal, grief, anxiety or depression, to accept it doesn’t mean you’re surrendering to it. You’re not giving up. You’re just choosing to face it directly.
Right now, my wife and I are facing a fairly common challenge: some nights the baby just won’t sleep. When we resist that fact, pity ourselves, or wish it simply weren’t happening, we tense up, frantically problem-solve, and the whole situation becomes unbearable. But those nights where we can accept it, we can transmute that frustration into a deep reservoir of patience and understanding.
We can remind ourselves that the baby is learning a crucial skill, and it takes time. He’s doing his best but he’s not there yet. The frustration is part of the process, and we’re facing it to support him. All we can do is take an educated guess on what he needs and do our best to provide it. Anything beyond that is wasted energy. Ahhh… I can almost immediately feel the tension release.
When heroes stand up to racism, inequality, sexism, climate change, animal cruelty, homophobia, violence, or other injustices, they often get motivation from confronting their cause. They see an unfair situation first-hand, and they acknowledge the reality of that situation. They don’t run and hide, they don’t pretend it’s not happening. They keep their eyes open and clearly see injustice with their own eyes. They accept that it’s happening, and this gives them the strength to try and change it.
In the case of attention activism, we need to accept that manipulative apps, manufactured media outrage, and social media shit-storms are real. But we also need to accept how modern technology is also enabling beautiful digital experiences, inspiring independent journalists, and incredible new ways to stay in touch with family and friends. We see the nuanced situation clearly and find our way to curating a more balanced life for ourselves and others.
All this potential is lost if we get wrapped up in negativity and hostility, taking an accusatory tone and making blanket generalizations (“all tech is evil”, “everyone who eats meat is cruel”, “all men are unfair to women”, etc.). These views are blurry. They reflect a lack of clarity. Blaming entire categories of people or practice without exception is lazy and it shirks your responsibility to understand your fellow human beings before pelting them with stones.
Acceptance is not surrender. To accept something doesn’t mean you endorse it. Acceptance is the seed of inspiration and the first step to clarity. Acceptance is a prerequisite to taking effective action.
Whatever you’re facing these days, try accepting it fully as reality. It’s happening. It is what it is.
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