Last week I wrote about how tempting it can be to try to numb our feelings and how it leads greater pain down the line. This week I’m looking at another way we try to reach positive change without the necessary addition of acceptance.
Acceptance is sometimes a very difficult thing to get. It’s a process. Like other processes (grief for example) it cannot be rushed to completion. It requires us to sit with it a little bit. I did quite a bit of sitting with this concept before and during my writing process for this article.
Part 2 – Leaving yourself behind
Leaving yourself behind? It sounds bad doesn’t it? Being left never feels good. The thought of being left by myself doesn’t seem too much better. Yet it’s something we do. Of course we don’t leave all of ourselves – we just try to distance ourselves from the parts of us that we judge as ‘bad’. When we discuss what we like it’s called talking, and when we discuss what we don’t like we call it confession.
It’s tempting to try to leave the parts of me that I deem greedy, selfish, judgmental, lazy. Think about it – why would I want anything to do with all that? Many of us were taught that it’s our duty to be charitable, selfless, kind, and hard-working.
It’s possible to get trapped by this kind of thinking, though: You can define your entire life by what you are not rather than what you are. Instead of knowing myself for the whole of who I am, I simply know myself as the not-lazy person who sometimes stumbles and ends up watching 5 hours of Trading Spaces. Shame and anger follow closely.
So should I just define myself as a greedy person? If I did I would just be leaving the ‘good’ part of myself behind. When I really take a good look at myself, good and bad, I see that I am a person with the capacity to be greedy and self-centered, but also with the capability to be charitable, sacrificing, and generous! Only by looking at the whole am I able to see myself as I really am. I can see my authentic and true self – possibly prone to the things I judge as ‘bad’, but also capable of greatness. Instead of running away from what I don’t like, I’m more able to run toward my values and goals. We see what is more closely in line with how God sees us – “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1Sam 16:7).
Many people come to counseling for change, but instead I stress the importance of growth. It may seem like splitting hairs, but it’s an important distinction when you’re trying to make your life into something else. Growth requires change, but change in no way requires growth. When I grow and develop I take important steps towards reaching my full potential. If I change, I’m just being somehow different. It doesn’t require me to be any more of my most authentic self.
At the Center for Christian Life Enrichment, clients often come to us for us to fix a problem. We do that – often pretty quickly. We don’t just help people change the way they are and the things they’re doing. We journey with them to grow and develop and the problems generally stop as a result. People generally stay to continue growing and developing, as it helps in all areas of one’s life and with many different problem areas. Personal growth leads to fulfilling relationships, deeper meaning in life, and greater satisfaction.
What are your thoughts on acceptance? I’d love to have a discussion with you about it! Leave a comment below or contact me.