That’s the name of the game in the personal development world. If you are not selling change, people aren’t interested.
This, of course, inspires personal development gurus to promise change when they have no business doing so.
People want change. Gurus sell it. Gurus promote change. People want it.
Striving for change, however, does not necessarily lead to inner peace, the holy grail of personal and spiritual growth.
The outcome of acceptance, however, is inner peace. That’s a change worth keeping.
The principle of acceptance reminds me of a story I heard early on in my NLP training career.
A young woman in the village got pregnant. Her parents were upset and demanded to know who the father was, as they had plans to expose and punish him.
In her anxiety, the young woman lied. “The Zen Master did this to me!” she cried.
The next morning the Zen Master awoke to the sound of a baby crying. On his front doorstep, he found the hungry little bundle of joy, with a tensely written note attached.
“You did this to our daughter. Now you can raise it!”
“Interesting,” thought the Zen Master.
Without a hint of reluctance, he scooped up the baby boy and began to care for him. Feeding, changing diapers, getting up at all hours of the night; all this he did without a second thought.
A year later, the young woman showed up at his door. She confessed her lie, then demanded her baby so that she could raise him.
Without a word, the Zen Master humbly complied. He handed over his one-year-old and went about his business.
Where was the Zen Master’s outrage?
Where was his desire to protect his reputation? What about the unfair sacrifice required of him?
None of this existed for him because he lived and breathed acceptance.
I do not live and breathe such acceptance. I’m not sure I’d want to.
Yet, this simple story is a reminder that acceptance and non-resistance to what life has to offer is a direct path to inner peace. If I can but take that path to peace 10% more of the time…
Three keys to learning acceptance.
Acceptance is a principle that requires humility and letting go. Here are three ideas that may help you move in this direction.
1. Often, acceptance involves loss.
Accepting things as they are requires giving up how we believe they should be. Just beneath the loss, the pain of grief awaits.
Are you willing to grieve the loss of something precious? Maybe you’ve lost a relationship. Perhaps you’ve lost your mobility or youth. You may feel the loss of opportunities gone by. Perhaps you lost the childhood you always wished for.
These are painful losses. So often, we fight off the grief by refusing to accept. On the other side of grief, acceptance comes naturally.
2. Refusing to accept is self-sabotage.
Sometimes refusing to accept is a subconscious set up. For example, let’s say the person you are with is a lying, cheating jerk who hurts you.
You forgive and forget. He does it all again. You forgive. He does it more. You look the other way. He keeps doing it. Ten years go by and you are now living in constant emotional rejection, as you continue to hope for change.
Self-sabotage. This is where negative psychological attachments can run your life. Dealing with your attachment to control, deprivation and rejection is the key.
3. The root of acceptance is personal maturity.
When you take candy from a two-year-old, what do you get?
When you tell an adult male that he cannot sit on the couch all evening and drink beer, what do you get?
Emotional maturity has very, very little to do with age. If you lack the ability to accept when and where you need to, you may lack maturity. Growing up emotionally would be an appropriate goal.