When Acceptance Is The Only Choice
Article written by Randi G. Fine
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference. “ ~Serenity Prayer~
We all find ourselves overwhelmed at times by situations that we have no control over; situations that we cannot change no matter how hard we try or what we do.
We all have difficulty accepting situations that are not the way we wish they would be. This difficulty manifests itself in feelings of frustration, anger, jealousy and regrets. These negative feelings interfere with our day to day peace of mind. They prevent us from forgetting or forgiving that which is well beyond our control. They impact our ability to move forward.
Many things we experience in our day to day lives are beyond our control; the weather, natural disasters, traffic conditions, delays, illness, the economy, etc. These experiences may make us feel uncomfortable, we may not like them, but we grit our teeth, make our best effort to roll with the punches, and move forward. The reason we are able to do that is because we do not feel personally threatened by these situations. For the most part they do not trigger deep emotions in us.
When something in our lives threatens our security, our tendency is to cling tightly to control. Control is always rooted in fear and attached to an outcome we believe is best for us. We fear that if we relinquish control, it will result in an undesired outcome. We fear that this undesired outcome will unsettle a precariously balanced foundation.
The primary disadvantage of fear-based control is that it obstructs our emotional well-being. As long as we continue to exercise control over everything in our world, we will not be able to accept what comes our way and therefore cannot possibly live a peaceful existence.
The lines between what we can and cannot control may blur sometimes. For instance, if someone close to us is on a self-destructive path, is it realistic to believe that we can effectively change or control his or her behavior?
We can certainly try and probably should if we care about that person’s welfare, but we must accept that the ultimate outcome is reliant on that person’s own desire to change. We can change our response to that person’s behavior, our level of acceptance of it, and our attitude, but we must accept our powerlessness in changing another individual without their desire to do so. We can make the effort but we cannot be emotionally attached to the outcome.
Many of us get stuck when it comes to accepting a regretful or painful past. We focus a great deal of emotional energy wishing we could change our past, even though our logical minds know that is impossible to do; that it is beyond our control.
There are actions we can take and attitudes we can adopt to help us come to terms with what happened. We can apologize and take responsibility for anything we may have done in the past that we regret. We can extract meaning and learn from our past experiences and mistakes. What we cannot do is change it.
We can however change the present and positively impact the future. We can face the repercussions of our past and move forward in the present. But ultimately we must come to terms with our past and accept it, because not accepting what happened will cause a great deal of disharmony in our lives.
The good news is that there are several things we can control or change in our lives with the expectation of positive outcomes. We can control aspects of our lives related to self-love, self-esteem, the betterment of our health, the enrichment of our relationships, and the quality of our lives.
We can improve our lives by changing the way we use our personal time, changing our habits, changing our relationships and the nature of them, changing the direction of our lives, changing our environments, changing our goals and occupations, and changing our health consciousness.
Each of us has power within to change our choices, our opinions, our core beliefs and values, and our points of view. And if we desire we can effectively control or change any responses, reactions, expectations, attitudes, or moods that do not serve us well.
On the other hand, no amount of control can change the families we were born into, our innate talents, our physical tendencies, our genetic make-ups or our sexual preferences. Likewise, our death and the death of those we love are inevitable realities for all of us.
We can wrestle with our feelings, live in denial, lash out, or feel victimized by our lots in life, but we can never change them. We do, however, have two options. The first option is to accept the reality of what is. The second option is to be miserable with a reality we cannot accept.
Granted, it is extremely difficult and painful to accept what we do not like, what we wish we could change but cannot. Resignation is hard to come to terms with when control is completely out of our hands. But the bottom line is, our happiness depends on that acceptance.
Why not swim with the current instead of against it? Resistance builds blockages; blockages that create depression, sleep disturbances, anxiety, stress, and general un-wellness. Once we decide to go with the flow instead of against it our lives begin changing in spectacular ways.
The irony is this; when we stop trying to control everything in our lives we actually gain more control over them. Acceptance and allowance open us up to all the possibilities that exist in the Universe. Acceptance frees our mind, body, and spirit.
Acceptance is a choice we make to better our lives. It begins with realistic expectations about life itself; with the understanding that life is not always fair, not everyone will like or love us, no one is perfect, and everyone experiences adversity.
Acceptance comes with the realization that there is no true reality; that no two people share the same exact perceptions, that there are as many points of view as there are people. It is the realization that our point of view is not the only one that is right, logical or fair.
Acceptance involves the taming of our egos and the embracing of humility. It comes with believing we are worthy of everything, but not entitled to anything other than our opinion.
Acceptance is the recognition that our souls chose to come here to learn specific lessons. It is the understanding that we are not cursed, we are not victims of life, and no one is punishing us.
Acceptance is about taking charge of the direction of our lives. It is about recognizing that we, not a supreme power, not our families, not our partners, not our government, are responsible for our own happiness and well-being.
As Lao Tzu said, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”