The Truth about Acceptance
The Truth about Acceptance
5 Ways Accepting Our Circumstances Gives Us Hope for Tomorrow
“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.”
The Serenity Prayer, written by Reinhold Niebuhr many years ago, contains powerful, timeless wisdom that is now being validating by research. Being able to accept what we cannot change is a key component of our emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being. We need God’s wisdom and grace to know what can and cannot be changed, and we can trust God to show us the difference.
"For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding." - Proverbs 2:6 (NIV)
Acceptance is about coming to terms with a situation: an unexpected diagnosis, changes in relationships, a new role we’re taking on, the loss of a loved one. It’s acknowledging the reality that our lives have changed and may never be the same. And most of all, it’s an integral part of a journey toward our overall mental well-being and even new strength in the midst of walking through challenges like anxiety, depression, grief, stress and more. Since denying or resisting this new reality can’t change it, we have to acknowledge where we are now in order to move forward.
While we may not have the power to change some things, we do have a choice in how we react: accept or resist.
When we battle with (resist) life as it is, our capacity to cope is diminished. Surprisingly to some, accepting the reality results in less suffering than unsuccessfully fighting against it. Yet, while facing reality is the logical thing to do, it is not always easy.
In my experience of working with Survivors of Suicide Loss, I have found that many resist accepting their loved one’s suicide because they misunderstand what “acceptance” means. They may tell me, “I will never accept what has happened.” When I ask what they mean, they usually respond that to accept the suicide would mean they are ok with it.
This is when it’s important to know what acceptance is and what it is not.
Acceptance is not…
…getting over what has happened.
…minimizing the significance of how it has impacted life.
…diminishing the loss or pain.
…labeling it as good or okay.
…acknowledging the significance of the impact.
…recognizing the loss and deep pain.
…admitting that life will never be the same again.
…learning to live in a new reality.
Acceptance is not the same thing as being okay with or liking what has happened; it is coming to terms with the understanding that the situation is happening regardless of how I feel about it - “It is what it is – whether I like it or not.”
Yet, acceptance is key to finding a new life after our lives have been permanently altered. During this process – which is active and requires intentionality – the question of “Why?” morphs into the question of “What?” At the beginning, it’s normal to struggle with the question of “Why is this happening to me?” However, when we get stuck in the “why” we also get stuck in survival mode, unable to move forward. By facing “what” has happened means asking new questions:
“What am I going to do with this?”
“What kind of life do I want to live now?”
Here are five truths about acceptance to help us move toward it:
Some of our questions may have no answers on this side of eternity. Through acceptance we discover that, although we may never find the answers we want, we believe that God will give us the answers we need.
Our current situation, a mental health diagnosis, our loved one’s struggles, or losing someone to suicide includes some unexpected and painful challenges. However, we can choose to reframe some of the negative effects by reaching out to help ease the pain of others who find themselves in similar situations.
Life will never be the same again. Although we can’t go back to life as it was, we can look forward to life as it will be.
Living in the reality that life will go on, and it can be good again, takes time. It is the byproduct of being willing to do the hard work of grieving what we lost – a loved one, our dreams, our health. It is only in learning to let go of what was that allows us to be open to what is and will be.
God has given us the freedom to choose to accept our circumstances and those choices determine our todays and our tomorrows.
“Whether you choose to live in acceptance, or fear in relation to a past betrayal or mistreatment, your response accordingly shapes both the present and future. It’s a choice between allowing automatic defense strategies to decide the course of your life, or consciously accessing the strength of both your courage and your compassion by choosing acceptance. Your choices are powerful emotional energies, fueled by your beliefs, wants, yearnings, thoughts and actions, etc., that powerfully determine the direction your life takes” (Athena Staik, Ph.D., PsychCentral).
God is not finished with any of us yet – as long as we live on this side of eternity.
When the worst happened and Jesus died on the cross, it appeared that all hope was gone. However, God was not finished…He was just getting started! We know that on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead, and defeated everything that could keep us from the love of God!
“No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” - Romans 8:39
If the worst has happened to you, if your life has been changed forever…trust that God is just getting started. He is not surprised that you find yourself where you are. He has plans for you. He trusts you enough to make the choice. We can accept that our new reality is what it is – whether we like it or not – and trust that God’s love is preparing us for our new and different life ahead!
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