Acceptance can be extremely difficult, but maybe what’s difficult is not the act itself, but determining why acceptance is so important.
When I wrote about forgiveness, I highlighted the fact that forgiving someone who wronged us doesn’t mean what they did is okay. And similarly, acceptance doesn’t mean we like what we’re accepting. It simply means that we’re seeing reality as it is. That we’re not struggling against the truth to our own detriment.
And perhaps the most important part of the equation is realizing that acceptance is the first step in moving on and starting to change.
But the concept of acceptance can be vague when it’s presented without an example that pertains to our lives in some way. And recently, while struggling with acceptance, I thought of an analogy that has helped me quite a bit.
In this analogy, I imagined myself driving down a remote road with no cellphone.
And as I’m driving, my car breaks down. I pull over to the side of the road, but instead of checking under the hood to determine whether I should set out on foot to seek help, I sit in my broken car and keep turning the key in the ignition as I grow increasingly frustrated that my situation isn’t getting any better.
Hours pass and I continue sitting in my broken car, unwilling to accept the fact that turning the key in the ignition won’t change anything.
Eventually, the sun goes down and I’m still in my car pounding on the dashboard in frustration, feeling powerless and hopeless and completely discouraged. And, of course, I’m no closer to a solution than I was a few hours ago when the problem originally occurred. In fact, I’m in an even worse situation now.
This sounds ridiculous. And truthfully, it is. No one would sit in a broken down car for hours hoping the car would miraculously fix itself. But in more complicated and subtle ways, we engage in this kind of behavior more than we would like to admit.
I’ve certainly found myself sitting in that metaphorical car turning my key in frustration as my situation does not improve. I’ve found myself unable to accept reality because struggling was preferable to admitting the problem actually existed.
And I think, at some point in our lives, we’ve all found ourselves in a similar situation. A situation where our unwillingness to accept something unpleasant caused more pain and suffering than if we had simply accepted what was in front of us.
This isn’t to say that acceptance is easy. In fact, it can be extremely painful because accepting the really difficult things about ourselves is an exercise in ego deflation. Accepting these things can feel like we’re accepting that we’ve failed.
But it is often the act of accepting painful truths about ourselves that helps us make the most significant changes.
Although our lives are much more complicated than a broken car on the side of the road, acceptance in more nuanced situations does exactly the same thing; it allows us to identify what’s wrong and starts us down the path to a solution.
It sounds so simple, but the difficulty is realizing that accepting reality allows us to make changes rather than signifying that we’ve failed. Because acceptance is not failure. Acceptance is not resignation. Acceptance is not apathy. Acceptance is not the end.
Acceptance is the beginning.