In this series, we are learning to take responsibility for our spiritual life by finding ways to make spirituality relevant in 2018. For me spirituality is about relationships and for relationships to be meaningful they must be cultivated like a fine garden. This series has been examining the Eight pillars of Joy in the Book of Joy by the Dali Lama and Desmond Tutu and exploring how to cultivate a meaningful relationship. I am weaving spirituality and psychotherapy together inviting you, the reader to dig deeper by finding meaningful and vibrant ways to connect with the Divine. Today’s fourth pillar is acceptance. Acceptance is tricky.
The Dali Lama asks a serious question: “Why be unhappy about something that you cannot change?” It reminds me of the AA prayer: God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. The question becomes, how do we find the wisdom to know the difference? First, accept the reality you cannot control another person, change another person, or make another person do what you want them to do. You can only change yourself in relationship to the situation you find yourself in. For instance, if you want your spouse to change, figure out how you must change first. That change might be learning to use your voice. If you are hurt by a friend who keeps doing the same behavior that is hurtful to you, accept that your friend, for whatever reason, is not going to accommodate your request to change hurtful behavior. Then decide how you want to handle it. You don’t have to leave the relationship if you don’t want too (even though that is one option). You can keep your distance or limit your interactions with them, but you do need to stop hoping for things to change. Hope in this situation keeps you attached at a different outcome, that is not going to happen. You need to change how you want to cope with it.
If you have chronic pain or a debilitating illness, such as an auto-immune disease or cancer, decide what lifestyle and treatment choices you want to make. You cannot make the illness disappear but decide how you are going to come to the illness. As always, the control you have over any given situation in your life is your reaction, thoughts, and feelings about the situation you are currently facing.
So, the wisdom to know the difference comes from honestly looking at the facts of your current situation . If you have discussed what you find troublesome in the relationships you are currently in and nothing changes then you must be the one to own what bothers you and decide how you want to change it. If you have not had a conversation about how you are feeling about your situation, then you are asking the other person to mind read. That is not fair.
So, how does this process of acceptance work with your relationship with the Divine? The under lying theme of this series is the taking of personal responsibility. Acceptance, whether you believe in God or not, allows you to live in more joy. Life is difficult and God’s job (however, you view God) is not to make life comfortable for you but to be there beside of you in your pain. If you are angry with the Divine because the Divine has not answered your prayers, maybe look at how non- accepting your prayers are. If you are begging for a change in your situation, perhaps praying for wisdom and strength is a better way of moving toward the issue you are currently experiencing. It is important to keep evolving in your faith and allow your faith to grow and change rather than stay stuck in a four-year old’s belief that the Divine and Santa Claus are the same. Life is always changing and is unpredictable. Acceptance of what is, helps you to go with the flow and enjoy the process.
One final thought. Acceptance and apathy are different. Acceptance is when you are doing your part to make things different. Apathy is doing nothing different and operating from a place of defeat. You must act and take responsibility for our actions and reactions to change.
Make a list of what you are willing to do to change your perspective and move toward acceptance. If you need help with this reach out to a therapist, Coach, or spiritual director. If you live in Arizona, you can set up a virtual appointment with me at email@example.com.
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