I’ve been thinking a lot lately about acceptance. When we accept something, we say ‘Yes,’ and receive it. When we accept a truth, we say ‘Yes,’ and integrate it into our lives. When we accept a person, we say ‘Yes,’ and embrace them with all that entails.
This is not tolerance. Tolerance is putting up with a thing, a concept, or a person, and does not allow for relationship to happen, let alone begin.
We can be tolerant of those of another religion, but we don’t necessarily want to hear about their religion–in fact we may have very strong negative opinions about the religion and those who practice it . . . but we will put up with them because it is the civil thing to do. Acceptance means that we accept that they believe what they do, and seek to understand the whys and wherefores of their spirituality (not that we will embrace or even like it, but that we will better know them).
We can be tolerant of an ethnic minority, while not wanting to live next door to them. After all, they can keep their strange music and weird traditions–but don’t expect me to like it!
My problem is that I like to put conditions on my acceptance: “I will accept you as long as you do …” or “I will accept you as long as you believe …” or “I will accept you but not this part of your life …”
I have an inability to accept without judgment. But this is not the way of grace.
According to Richard Rohr, this is not the way Jesus (or any of the many historically-renown religious teachers) understand it.
By teaching, “Do not judge,” the great teachers are saying that you cannot start seeing or understanding anything if you start with “no.” You have to start with a “yes” of basic acceptance, which means not too quickly labeling, analyzing, or categorizing things as in or out, good or bad, up or down. You have to leave the field open, a field in which God and grace can move. Ego leads with “no” whereas soul leads with “yes.”
The ego seems to strengthen itself by constriction, by being against things; and it feels loss or fear when it opens up. “No” always comes easier than “yes,” and a deep, conscious “yes” is the work of freedom and grace. Spiritual teachers want you to live by positive action, open field, and studied understanding, and not by resistance, knee-jerk reactions, or defensiveness.
Words and thoughts are invariably dualistic, but pure experience is always non-dualistic. You cannot really experience reality with the judgmental mind, because you are dividing the moment before you give yourself to it. The judgmental mind prevents you from being present to the full moment by trying to “divide and conquer.” Instead, you end up dividing and being conquered. Adapted from The Naked Now (pp. 49-50),
True acceptance is the result of grace at work in a life. As Jesus said, “Freely you have received; freely give.” Since God accepts us with a resounding eternal “Yes,” we too need–must–work towards accepting one another.
Since I don’t naturally do this (or even want to at times), I need to remember that, ‘A deep, conscious “yes” is the work of freedom and grace.’ As I allow God to transform my attitudes, freedom and grace will become more of a motivating factor in my life and acceptance will follow.
I’m not now where I should be, but neither am I where I was . . . thanks to a growing and expanding realisation that God receives me now and will continue to receive me and all I am with an eternal “Yes.”