Accepting difference

Sometimes I write about accepting difference in a way that seems to imply ethical inclusion, as if to accept is to forgive or allow or condone. I’d like to dissociate the notion of acceptance from the notion of condoning.

Often when something frightening happens to us, we react with denial: “this can’t be happening!”.  This reaction can harm us. Imagine, for instance, having this reaction upon realizing that the building you are in is on fire. You might freeze up, or blunder about in a blind panic, and so perish.

To accept that you are in a building on fire, that you are in danger of your life, would not imply that you passively allow the fire to destroy you. The point of such acceptance would be to help you perceive more easily how to get out of danger. So, too, with the acceptance of social difference.

For instance, if someone is actively trying to destroy you, accepting that fact could help you defend yourself against them. You could move past the reaction, “this shouldn’t be happening!”, which accomplishes nothing and drains your energy.

Acceptance can help overcome the inability to act. It can also mitigate against overreaction. If someone is trying to destroy you, then destroying them first might be the best thing to do, but it might be a waste of time. Often it’s more effective simply to evade or defend against a destructive action than to attack its source.

Accepting difference can help us not take things personally, even things that are intended to be personal, and so can help us escape the trap of trying to resolve our personal feelings by acting on external things or vice-versa.

And of course, very often the destructive things that happen to us are not done for the sake of destroying us but in the pursuit of some unrelated goal to which our own needs are incidental.  Knowing which is which can help us to respond in ways that address the specificities of our situation.

Of course, easier said than done. I have all sorts of trouble practicing acceptance in my own life. That’s why I think about it as much as I do.

What thoughts do you have?

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