There are few words which have such varying connotations as the myriad forms of ‘accept’.
A person can accept terms of an agreement, accept a state of affairs which is less-than-desirable; a group of people can be accepting and open, or a person who seeks to become part of a group may only be acceptable.
Acceptance is, at best, an ambiguous term subject to its surroundings. Like good exegesis, context is king.
If I were selling my car, I could accept an offer which is either great or merely, well, acceptable. My acceptance is based on the selling price. I will not accept $5,000 for a $10,000 car [under most circumstances], but I might agree to $9,000. If someone offered me $12,000 for my $10k car when it wasn’t necessarily for sale, I’d more than likely accept.
A social circle may be accepting in that they truly welcome all into the circle, or they may be accepting in that they’ll take a person despite x, y and/or z. Perhaps churches should be more careful when they wave the banner of being accepting, for acceptance is not necessarily anything more than merely being polite. I know lots of evangelical churches who couldn’t give a crap about people coming more than the fact that there are more butts in seats. They’ll accept the presence of the newcomer, as long as s/he brings his/her family, falls in line and, most importantly, gives. That is also acceptance, perhaps disingenuous, but acceptance nonetheless. Then again, the moment that same person divulges him- or her- self as homosexual or, worse yet, questions supposedly non-negotiable church doctrine, acceptance becomes unacceptable. Being accepting does not necessarily mean all are actually welcomed and engaged.
The toughest pill to swallow is to accept a set of circumstances as they are. Kübler-Ross wrote of the stages of death, but those same stages can be likened to any existential crisis: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression.
If the governing framework of someone’s life, or a central concern implodes, those same stages of death are present. And acceptance, in and of itself, is not a joyful moment. In fact, the other stages are perceived to be more satisfying in that they still provide a person with the hoping-against-hope of things working out in the way s/he wants. Denial affords the illusion of nothing being wrong, anger drives a person to keep going–even if it means going off a cliff, bargaining hopes for a compromise which will maintain a grip on sand, depression acts the same as anger, but with the slow realization that there is little, if nothing, more here.
Acceptance, in this state of affairs, is the healing necessary to let things die: to see clearly that what little there is left is worth savoring, and that what is left in the balance of our lives ought to be invested into those around us.
Acceptance can be a happy thing–going to the college you want on scholarship, getting the perfect job, being nominated for a position, selling a house for a good price, being embraced simply because you are. In other situations, when the time is right, acceptance is a mournful realization: realizing that six months to live is likely not seven, needing to sell a house after moving because few can afford two mortgages–and not many more can afford one at this point, becoming cognizant of the fact that people only tolerated you because social courtesy demanded it. It’s coming to grips with the fact that this is not a first-person-centered universe, and that sometimes, regardless of infrequency, it only feels that way.
Narratives we imagine are not narratives anywhere outside our own heads; the moments of reflection subsequent to that collision is a moment of acceptance. It may not be peace, because peace almost necessarily comes with healing, but it is a painful realignment of a person to reality. That which was upside-down is put back in its right place. And the only person who tries to go back from a place of acceptance is the fool of fools. In fairness, no one ever said it would be easy to accept. Not everything is as easy as getting 93% of one’s asking price, or as pure as being unconditionally embraced for what we are. Few things are, and we are right to express joy or gratitude for those things. Sometimes, though, they are little more than salt in the wounds of the damaged. Regardless, those things we, rightly, call blessings.
For everything else that fails, blows up, lets down or hurts us in the world, we have acceptance. Thankfully, in the absence of anything better, this is acceptable. My blessings are not as extravagant as others, but they are mine.
This is me, accepting.