Tom has the tendency to have a pessimistic outlook in life. Stacy gets defensive and takes things personally. Susan is usually consumed with her own problems that she fails to see the needs of other’s around her. David is frugal with his money, time and affection. Darcy is rude, inconsiderate and holds on to grudges. Charlie is suspicious and thinks the worst of everyone.
You may have encountered some of these fictional characters in real life or may be living under the same roof with one. At some point in time, you may have secretly (or openly) wished they were better, different, exciting, spontaneous, funny, or outgoing. How do we reconcile our feelings with the reality of ‘this is the way they are’? In this article, I’m going to write about one of the hardest things to do in life but an essential component in relationships: Accepting the other person for who they are. I mean truly accepting them without any unconscious intentions to try to change them, even for the better.
I believe one of the reasons it’s hard to accept another person for who they are is because we have a natural tendency to filter people’s actions, behavior and personality, through our own life experiences, upbringing and perspective. It’s through this paradigm we view the world and the people in it. And when they don’t ‘fit’ into our worldview box we come up against feelings of frustration, agitation, or unhappiness. And unless we change the way we think, give up our ‘only-best-right way’ attitude, shift our paradigm, alter our perspective, this mountain will remain impossible to climb. So how do we do this?
Like most things in life, we always have a choice. In this case, we can choose to accept or change the person or walk away. In accepting the person with their ‘flaws’ we let go of control, experience a peace of mind, invite harmony into the relationship and see the bigger picture of life. On the other hand, if you’re determined to change them you’ll end up on a dead end road of frustration and a battle of wills. But if the first two options are not feasible or working out for you the way you’d like, then the third option might be the best solution for the both of you.
The irony of trying to change someone is that it is us who changes, for the worse. Let me explain, your decision will ultimately affect you. If you choose to accept someone for who they are, the possible benefits you’ll reap will be having more patience, peace, freedom, compassion, and unity. But the consequences of trying to change someone will cripple you with cynicism, negativity, unwillingness, bitterness, anger, or resentment. This change in you won’t happen overnight but over a period of time.
My motto lately for acceptance has been, “Life’s too short.” Life’s too short to fuss and fume. Too short to stay upset and hold a grudge. Too short to point the finger and accuse. Too short to be miserable because the person is not what they’re ‘suppose’ to be. Too short to believe the myth I’d be happier if they changed. Ultimately what I’m demanding them to be is a mirrored image of myself. And I guarantee eventually I’ll find a flaw or two.
Of course, there are exceptions to every case; you don’t want to condone destructive habits or abusive behavior. Tough love will call for a change and for a period of time, you may need to love them from a distance while they get the help they need.
One of the key ways in accepting another person is through appreciation. Focus on the good qualities they already possess – strengths, positive character traits, accomplishments, their hopes and dreams. Then share this admiration to the person genuinely without expecting anything in return. I believe this seed of authentic appreciation and unconditional acceptance will blossom into something beautiful in them. And please don’t be hurt or offended if they don’t appreciate your appreciation, this is bound to happen. Mainly, you have to do it for yourself, your peace of mind, sanity, and happiness. And my hope is that one day you’ll also experience the same unconditional acceptance you showed to others. Making this world a beautiful place to live in.
©2012 Susie Lee
Food for Thought ::
“Strive to be patient; bear with the faults and frailties of others, for you, too, have many faults which others have to bear. If you cannot mould yourself as you would wish, how can you expect other people to be entirely to your liking? For we require other people to be perfect, but do not correct our own faults.
We wish to see others severely reprimanded; yet we are unwilling to be corrected ourselves. We wish to restrict the liberty of others, but are not willing to be denied anything ourselves. We wish others to be bound by rules, yet we will not let ourselves be bound. It is amply evident, therefore, that we seldom consider our neighbor in the same light as ourselves…”
-The Imitation of Christ pg. 44
You take people as far as they will go,
not as far as you would like them to go.
Whenever two people meet there are really six people present.
There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him,
and each man as he really is.
Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect.
It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.
When you find peace within yourself,
you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.