Acceptance is not “Putting Up With”
We talk a lot about acceptance, but people often reject it because they take it to mean “having to put up with“, so I want to examine in more detail how and where it applies.
The acceptability of actions lies on a spectrum, but let’s divide that into three. At one end are acts that, for you, are truly unacceptable – lying, cheating, drug abuse – the deal-breakers vary from person to person. Even combined with sweeteners of sex, money or repentance, it ultimately doesn’t work.
In the middle are things of importance that have potential resolutions, like visiting the in-laws for Christmas or moving away for a new job. We wrote about How to Make Joint Decisions without Conflict in Awareness Magazine.
where many people get unnecessarily hung up is with the little things in life – toothpaste tubes, dog hair, tidiness. Look at how important these are to you. If they are important, then they live in some other part of the acceptance spectrum; if not, there are several ways to change how they affect you.
One is examining your attachment to them – examining yourself from a Buddhist perspective, looking internally at your needs and desires. This is a slow but potentially rewarding path.
The other approach is to see your partner as another person, with rights, feelings and needs just as valid as yours, yet not the same as yours. These differences can be an endless source of energy, entertainment and inspiration. To try and eliminate them by making your partner the same as you is to diminish the possibilities, as well as being likely to fail because controlling your partner is a recipe for conflict. Maude expands on this here. Instead, as she says, celebrate the difference. When you take this path, there is no “having to put up with” – it is replaced by the joy of knowing another.
Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.
Rainer Maria Rilke