Recently there was a discussion about “Acceptance” here in the Emerging from Broken website. People were expressing difficulty with having been constantly told to “accept others” for the way they are. This directive always seems to be issued when someone is expressing difficulties with having been devalued, discounted and mistreated. I have come to realize that this is where the difficulty lies. When we are directed to accept, it is implied that acceptance means to accept the abusive behavior of the other person. This misunderstanding and false teaching gets deeply mixed into many relationships and is used as a justification for all kinds of abuse.
Accepting others the way they are is a more appropriate directive when the person wears strange clothing, or likes to eat weird bugs; acceptance of political or religious views that are not like mine are also good examples. But accepting others because they swear at me, talk down to me, devalue and disrespect me or completely dismiss me as a person ~ those are actions that I don’t have to accept. We should NOT be encouraged to accept unacceptable behavior.
I don’t have any problem with accepting the way other people are. I have a problem with accepting unacceptable behavior. I can accept that my mother doesn’t want to respect me. But that means that she doesn’t get to have respect FROM me either and that seems to be what other people have problems with. I am accused of disrespecting her because I don’t have contact with her, but the truth is that I don’t have contact with her because I respect ME. Relationship is a two way street and I deserve equal respect. We all deserve EQUAL respect.
I HAVE equal value to all others. That is the truth and yet our society seems to encourage the belief that some people according to the title they hold actually deserve more respect than other people. I had to believe that this was a lie in order to own my own value and stop accepting disrespectful treatment. Disrespectful treatment is not acceptable and therefore should NOT be accepted. It really is that simple. No one has the right to treat another person in an abusive, disrespectful and unacceptable way.
The underlying problem for me was that I had learned to question myself and my feelings. I had been told that I was wrong so much that I thought I was. I believed that I was wrong. I had been told that I exaggerated so much that I believed I did. I believed my memory magnified things beyond the truth. As long as I was in that spin of questioning myself, I believed that I was not being fair to other people if I accused them of devaluing or disrespecting me and I got that mixed up with acceptance. I believed that I was not “accepting others the way that they are” if I questioned their motives or intentions even within the confines of my own mind.
The truth was that I had never actually been taught or empowered to realize what unacceptable actually was. Controlling demanding people had taught me that I didn’t have the same “rights” as they did; that my actions were unacceptable while their actions were acceptable. And that teaching is a tough thing to un-teach and overcome.
It was important for me to validate the damage that was caused to me as well as to validate that I didn’t have to accept unacceptable behavior. This was all mixed in with the brainwashing that I had accepted about “accountability” and I had even gone so far as to try to accept that I was accountable for the way I was treated too. (I am referring to the false belief that I must have done something to “cause” the abuse or mistreatment)
Another concept that gets mixed in with the “acceptance directive is “unconditional love”. Unconditional love is not about accepting abusive treatment from someone who kicks you around physically or emotionally. It isn’t love when someone treats another person with disregard or disrespect and yet we are taught to return those actions with love. This doesn’t make any sense. It isn’t loving towards the person who aims disrespect or disregard at another person if we just accept it. It is far more loving and an example of healthy self esteem to stand up to it even if that is only to remove ourselves from the situation.
We have laws about human rights in place for a reason and even if those laws are so often not enforced BY the law these laws teach us our rights as human beings. I was shocked when I first discovered them, but at the same time I found them empowering; especially the ones about emotional abuse and neglect. Always remember that we are healing from the damage and that before the damage can be overcome, it has to be acknowledged.
Acceptance in the context of accepting what happened is not the same thing as acceptance of the person who did it. Accepting the way a person “is” does not apply when abuse or mistreatment is involved. There is a big difference in accepting someone’s “faults”, verses accepting abusive treatment.
Please share your thoughts about the definition and implications of the word “acceptance.” Has this word been used against you? Have you been told that you “have to accept” someone’s unacceptable behavior just because of the title they hold in your life?
Exposing Truth; one snapshot at a time
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