The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely. – C.G. Jung
We can’t talk about acceptance and not look inward.
I believe in continuous and never-ending self-improvement, however, what I have come to discover in the past year is that the negative aspects in our lives are but manifestations of not accepting oneself and making continuous and never-ending self-improvement focused on making our surroundings more conducive for who we are.
Let me explain.
The lazy teenager is not lazy, they are not aware of, and not embracing, the unique strengths they have and setting out to bring those out as opposed to their weaknesses.
The rude neighbour next door is not rude, she just does not know how to assert her needs for a comfortable and clean building as others leave their garbage in the hallway or play loud music late at night.
The quiet and shy colleague is not arrogant, he just values introspection and has a difficult time pursuing and participating in small talk.
So in these three examples, more often than not, the teenager, neighbour and colleague all know what others think of them, and often adopt one of two approaches; they either enter into a never-ending struggle to be someone they are not, or embrace who they are and aggressively challenge the whole world around them. In both cases, these are manifestations of not accepting oneself.
In this post, I ask god to give us the strength and means to recognise and understand who we are, accept it, and then focus on a never-ending and continuous journey of improving our surroundings to give the best of ourselves to the world around us.
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No matter what storm you face, you need to know that God loves you. He has not abandoned you. – Franklin Graham
We generally think that god loves us when good things happen in our lives; we feel special and feel blessed. We feel that god loves us and that he must be satisfied with who we are and the good things we strive to do, until … we experience tough moments or despite our best efforts, we fall short in doing good.
Feelings of disappointment start to creep up and we start to feel God does not love us, or has given up on us. With this feeling comes discouragement and negativity. With this feeling comes a lack of appreciation of positive instances and lack of acceptance of negative instances in our lives.
I experienced this the other day when I was not able to wake up for the night meal before starting the next fasting day. Despite taking practical steps to ensure I wake up, I was not able to enjoy a nice meal at a time during the night that is peaceful in one of the most blessed months. My immediate reaction? Complete negativity and feeling of discouragement.
I started to think, maybe acceptance is not only about accepting all that happens to us, but is about accepting that every single small or big thing that happens in our lives is underpinned by god’s love and not disappointment. I believe that this wonderful underpinning is the key to acceptance in all areas of our lives. As long as our intentions are good, every single second in our lives on earth is a single second where god showers us with his love irrespective of how we determine our second to be, good or bad.
May we always see our lives as they are, engrossed in god’s love.
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Life’s up and down from the time you get here to the time you leave – Luke Bryan
There are three basic realities that make acceptance easier:
- We are all here for a limited time and we don’t know if that time is short or long, all we know is that it eventually ends. So the question becomes … would I rather spend it accepting things I cannot change or focus on the good things that I can?
- We have some good days and we have some bad days. We have some tough teammates and some awesome ones. We have good, and bad, hair days. Some days we feel we can do anything and on others, we wonder where the *&^% are we heading? Some days we feel nothing can stop us, and on others, we are sensitive to every word, every look, and every gesture.
- We absolutely can never predict the future. We can think of likelihood and possibilities. We can think of cause and effect. We can think of risks and coincidences, but no matter how hard we think, analyse or squeeze our brains, we won’t be able to predict the future.
With these three realities one does start to see life as a ferris wheel, it goes up and down, round and round. Sometimes we wait in one spot longer than others as others are embarking or leaving cars. We often ride a ferris wheel assuming no malfunction would occur trusting others to have tested or maintained the ride, we just let go of control.
So then … again, why don’t we just go with the “ride“?
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The only thing that we have to fear is fear itself – Franklin D. Roosevelt
I don’t believe there was a single ramadan, in Ramadan Living’s history, where I did not dedicate a post to fear. I don’t do it because I plan it that way, I do it because it always comes up, directly or indirectly, and I am not surprised.
Fear can be legitimate. Without fear, we don’t know how to make wise choices in protecting ourselves, our rights, our safety, our families and loved ones. However, fear can also be at the root of why we don’t embrace acceptance often based on an illegitimate fear of the future.
It is illegitimate because it is often negative and perceived to be done onto us in the future and not within our control. As a scholar once said, the fear of disease, is a worse disease. The fear of poverty, is poverty in itself. The fear of what people could do to you is far greater than what they can possibly do. The fear of death, is death itself.
This illegitimate fear robs us of happiness and acceptance of where we are today. This illegitimate fear robs us of the opportunity to consciously take steps and make practical decisions protecting ourselves from the negatives that might materialise if these things do happen in the future, i.e. a legitimate fear. More importantly, these illegitimate fears prevent us from embracing opportunities that come our way while we are focused on things that may or may not happen.
A saying I always liked, “we shall cross that bridge when we get there” … may god give us the ability to recognise illegitimate fears and be strong when we approach “that bridge”.
For now … just breathe.
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Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and there’s got to be a way through it – Michael J. Fox
Acceptance may be seen as a way of giving up, but I believe that acceptance is an active verb and state of being that one consciously decides to be in. The difference? Acceptance brings calmness and serenity, surrender brings resentment.
I always liked the way Henry Cloud and John Townsend spoke about boundaries and how not asserting them is signaled through feelings of resentment; a negative gut feel generating emotions of anger, sadness, bitterness, and confusion.
Acceptance that generates these feelings is the result of either not asserting one’s, or in the opposite sense crossing another’s, boundaries. Acceptance in this case is not acceptance at all and action is often needed to rectify underlying issues.
As a friend of mine reminded me today, we are not meant to be unhappy, and happiness comes from accepting that which is meant to be accepted and striving, calmly, towards changing it in a way that brings goodness to self and others.
So when is acceptance right? When it generates feelings of peace and comfort, openness and courage … now that is a state worth being in.
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A quick temper will make a fool of you soon enough – Bruce Lee
It only took a couple of hours after yesterday’s post for me to be tested in a situation where someone was completely and absolutely … most likely unknowingly … rude. It was a strange experience, in the tight confines of an elevator, and it caught me by so much surprise, I could not but utter a few words under my breath, which I rarely ever do!
I was tested in a situation where I had no option but to travel, even if temporarily, with this complete stranger who had no idea that they had just triggered my natural fight or flight response. Soon enough however, I realised that those few words under my breath had not made any difference to the situation and I probably looked strange, if not equally rude, doing it. It was an unnecessary negative reaction in the holy month that neither led to a change in a situation nor, more importantly, did it bring me closer to god; on the contrary, and despite the simple situation, it went against the spirit of the holy month.
Quickly, and practically, god had provided me with an opportunity to realise that acceptance manifests itself even in our reactions to simple annoyances and in managing our tempers.
May god give us the wisdom and strength to manage our tempers in the rare big moments and the more regular small moments.
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Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself ― Leo Tolstoy
In the past year, I have learned that part of acceptance is realising that the only thing that one can truly change is oneself.
While I can genuinely try to change my surrounding reality when maneuvering through the interesting challenges of life, I figured that it was more worth while to think about the options I had within my surrounding reality and work with them instead of holding expectations of change in others and what I now label as “trying too hard”.
So instead of asking how I can change a person or group of people in a particular task, place or situation, I now try to shift my view to what my role is, and related options are, in the change I seek in the task, place or situation that is bothering me.
Having said that, and in a lot of cases, change in others is key to the change in task, place or situation, and this is where acceptance and patience would be more befitting especially when the task, place or situation have a more significant purpose and benefit.
I ask god to give us the ability to shift our view from others to ourselves.
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Welcome O blessed month!
Welcome O blessed month of forgiveness, of self, of others, learning and growth.
This year’s theme is based on my experiences since Ramadan 2017 that included an interesting common theme of trying too hard to change that which is meant to be ‘as is’. I am not advocating that we not try hard to change things, but what has come up are learnings that truly embody … “accept(ing) the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” – Reinhold Niebuhr.
I look forward to spending a new Ramadan with you and I ask god to make it blessed for all.
In my deepest, darkest moments, what really got me through was a prayer. Sometimes my prayer was ‘Help me.’ Sometimes a prayer was ‘Thank you.’ What I’ve discovered is that intimate connection and communication with my creator will always get me through because I know my support, my help, is just a prayer away. – Iyanla Vanzant
In these last 48 to possibly 72 hours of this blessed month, I urge myself and others to focus on asking god to help us find a way out of our challenges, bring us more of what blessings we seek and help us get closer to his mercy, wisdom and love.
Prayer is so powerful when done right; with honesty, goodness, purity of heart and intentions, along with a sense of certainty that our prayers will be answered.
Prayer through remembrance brings us closer to our creator, transcending all moments of despair as we reflect on god’s attributes and names.
Find a quiet space and focus on reaching as far up as possible with your soul and heart … ask him for peace, acceptance and tranquility within your heart that you can take with you everywhere you go and in every situation you encounter.
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Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself. ― Harvey Fierstein
As a follow-on to my previous post about sources of despair that are form within, the second one is not being who you are.
By not being who you are, you are denying yourself tasks that you feel closely align with your strengths. By not being who you are, you are denying yourself a long term dream and goal that is befitting to how you are meant to make an impact in the limited time you have on earth. By not being who you are, you are not receiving words of encouragement and support from those who truly care about your well-being and success.
This causes one to despair because one often finds themselves uncomfortable and restless for reasons that may not be clear leading to underachievement, productivity and personal satisfaction.
So, be who you are. Speak up. Hang out with people who are giving. Dream big and dream far.
In whatever job or situation you are in, actively work on moving into something that more closely aligns with your god-given strengths and don’t let external factors or circumstances make you give up on that. These circumstances may delay your plans, but don’t give up on them!
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