Saying ‘Yes’

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!

But when we accept, we say “Yes, you and all that you are has value to me.”

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.”

I Hugged a Man in His Underwear . . .

Now that I’ve got your attention . . .

No, seriously, that is part of the title of this post I read yesterday and was very moved. Nathan (who wrote the post) is a pastoral care worker for The Marin Foundation, working out of Chicago in the USA.  His post tells the story of his attendance at this year’s Gay Pride parade, not as a protester, but to openly say ‘We’re Sorry’ to the LGBT community for not being like Jesus. I’ll put a link to the post at the end of this one.

I admire the work of The Marin Foundation for what they are doing in repairing relationships between the Church and the LGBT community (and highly recommend Andrew Marin’s book, Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community, though I still don’t think he goes far enough in his acceptance of LGBT folk into the life of the Christian community).

What I really appreciated is Nathan’s openness to realising that the Church of which he is a part has been wrong to victimise the LGBT community, marginalise them, and treat them no better than third-class citizens. While others were shouting venomous words and waving hate-filled placards, he and his friends were wearing T-shirts that said ‘I’m Sorry” and held banners and signs declaring sins of exclusion, asking for forgiveness.

What I also appreciate is what he said regarding acceptance and reconciliation:

Acceptance is one thing. Reconciliation is another. Sure at Pride, everyone is accepted (except perhaps the protestors). There are churches that say they accept all. There are business that say the accept everyone. But acceptance isn’t enough. Reconciliation is.

But there isn’t always reconciliation. And when there isn’t reconciliation, there isn’t full acceptance. Reconciliation is more painful; it’s more difficult. Reconciliation forces one to remember the wrongs committed and relive constant pain. Yet it’s more powerful and transformational because two parties that should not be together and have every right to hate one another come together for the good of one another, for forgiveness, reconciliation, unity.

Paul Fiddes spoke about forgiveness yesterday in the seminar I attended at Tabor Adelaide. Using the example of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa at the end of Apartheid, he demonstrated the difference between saying ‘I’m sorry’ and then sweeping the past under the carpet (so to speak) and sharing stories which lead to a more genuine understanding and reconciliation. In sharing stories, he said, we bring to light how the offense has affected us and often, though not always, just telling their story and hearing the story of the victim can bring about a real change in the attitude and life of the offender.

I believe it’s only when we can keep the conversation open that real reconciliation and the mending of damaged relationships can happen. Just like no gay person has ever been converted with signs that say ‘God Hates Fags,’ no reconciliation can happen if we refuse to respect the other enough to listen–rather ‘enter into’–their story.

After all, this is what Jesus did for us.

Here’s the link to Nathan’s post, I Hugged a Man in His Underwear, and I am Proud.