(an abridged excerpt from the book)
Although we need to make judgments to navigate the world, excessive judgement can put up walls between ourselves and others, and inhibit natural and authentic interactions. If we temper judgment with acceptance we stand a much better chance of being able to think and act appropriately and compassionately.
I have met people who fall too much on one side than the other and both can cause problems. Too much judgment and too little acceptance can make our standards unattainably high or lead to us alienating others. Too much acceptance and too little judgment can lead to getting taken advantage of, or finding ourselves in difficult situations. So we need to get the balance right. As I mentioned before, having real acceptance doesn’t mean we can’t be discerning.
One quality that always helps in our acceptance of other people and things is compassion. The exercise below is very simple as I would like you to just read through some statements and mull them over.
Exercise: Reading Through Statements of Acceptance
I am in no better position to judge others than they are to judge me
Other people are not trying to be the person I want to be, or live life the way I want to live it.
Every adult is responsible for their own lives and happiness
Every person has the right to be free to be themselves, whether I approve of their choices or not
It would be too much responsibility to make great choices for myself, as well as evaluating other peoples’
The situation is as it is, if I can accept that I may find the best way to move forward.
It is very hard to fight other people, weather, events and life. It is best to find a way to go with the flow and use whatever is happening to my advantage.
Some people are a bit crazy, but why judge them for it; it is not like they chose to be crazy.
Some people are idiots. Luckily it is possible to judge them and accept them at the same time, also accepting your judgment of them.
Are any of the above difficult for you? Maybe one seems to make sense, but you feel some resistance to it? Just notice your feelings. No need to do anything about it right now except try to notice when something comes up in the future that is relevant to the statement and watch your reaction.
Sometimes a situation will come up that we just cannot stomach – it feels irreconcilably wrong or unfair, perhaps. Our reaction to it and any anger is designed to give us the impetus to act, and many are worried that feeling acceptance will diminish the power we have to do this.
However, if we can cultivate the ability to feel acceptance of what is going on, whilst simultaneously harnessing the power of the anger or dismay we feel we have a much better chance of acting wisely.
I suggest that instead of thinking of acceptance as passivity, we step back and see that it can encompass all the ways of being and feelings. We can accept that the situation is happening, accept our feelings, accept our anger, and make a plan.
To sum up; being controlled by our reactions puts us in a weak position and having acceptance and being conscious puts us in a strong position.
Embracing the Challenge
Depending on the situation, one tactic we could try is embracing the challenge that the situation presents, knowing that each difficult situation presents us with an opportunity for learning and growth.
Exercise: Embracing the Challenge
For this exercise you will need one difficult situation and a pen and paper.
- Firstly write out the whole situation, including any details you think are important and also how you feel about it. If you want to do something more creative, you can even draw it.
- Now when you have written or drawn everything you want to, try and step back and see the situation as a whole. If it helps, you can imagine being far above it. Write down the first things you notice.
- Then wonder to yourself if there is one thing that might make it better, what would this be (whether it is realistic or not)?
- Now picture yourself above the situation as if you were an eagle flying overhead. It might be easier if you use the third person (he/she) when thinking about this as using the word “I” can draw you right back into the situation. When you are seeing the whole situation calmly, ask yourself (with an open mind) what opportunities there are to learn from this situation, or how you might grow.
- Now, with a really open mind – whimsical even – wonder what would a really wise person do in this situation?
Take your time with this exercise – it is not always easy to work on things that are emotionally charged. Hopefully you will learn how to derive some benefit from a difficult time and use it to grow.
Acceptance is an important life skill and although it seems really simple, it can be one of the hardest things in practice. So don’t give yourself a hard time if it takes work – just try to accept how you are doing and keep going!