Acceptance has become a dirty word.

To “accept” has come to mean that you condone. To accept someone’s behavior has been distorted to mean that you somehow are rolling over, being passive, and becoming victimized.

To “accept” a situation means you are “doing nothing about it.” You aren’t doing the work, you’re being lazy, and you lack character strength.

This is incorrect. What acceptance really means is that you are embracing the truth about someone or something. Accepting the truth is very different from being a victim.

A main reason for emotional pain is the inability to accept the truth or reality. Surely you don’t do that; only crazy people don’t accept reality, right? How can someone not accept reality? Of course those people must be somewhat incompetent if not mentally ill.

Yet, I’ll bet you have spent hours, days, months, and years depressed, anxious, angry, frustrated, and resentful because you wish something would be different. You hold out hope that someone becomes someone they’re not. You are unable to accept the truth about the way things really are right now. Consider these:

  • Your boss is a narcissistic jerk. Accept it as the truth about who he is. Why get angry, complain, and spend time in upset? Expect him to be a jerk and you won’t be surprised.

  • You hope you get a job for which you are highly qualified. Your interview was great, the people at the company seemed to really like you, and you were called back for two more meetings. You find out the job went to someone else, and you are angry and crushed for days. Sometimes life isn’t fair. Accept it.

  • Your mother is an alcoholic. Expect her to become drunk and abusive. She is, after all, an alcoholic. As much as you don’t like it, she isn’t going to change until she wants to, if at all. Don’t hope for a storybook holiday with her; she’s an alcoholic. Expect her drunken behavior and accept this as the truth about who she is.

  • Your partner is a sports fanatic and spends his weekend days playing and watching sports. When you were dating, you watched him from the stands and sat next to him on the couch, cheering. After three years together, you are sick of it. The two of you fight about it every Friday in anticipation of the weekend. But why are you fed up with him? Why was his behavior acceptable when you were dating? You knew who he was going into your relationship; why are you hoping he’ll become someone different now?

Harsh, eh?

So why should you just accept things? Because angst breeds when you wish something were other than it is. Angst, discomfort, negative emotions, depression, anxiety, and just feeling bad. You suffer, and soon your relationships suffer.

Wouldn’t it just be healthier to accept the truth, the reality, and move on without the pain?

Why waste one moment of this precious life in pain when you don’t have to? Acceptance means you are accepting life on life’s terms and are not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change. “Radical Acceptance” was coined by  Marsha Linehan in 1993 and is about saying yes to life, just as it is.

Life is difficult. When you accept that, it gets easier.

-M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Travelled