Maybe we need to switch out “acceptance” with “sacrifice”.
Her mother-in-law was a pain in the arse.
I only ever got second-hand accounts, but she sounded like hard work. Her personality style was “aggressive”, she was a terrible listener, and to top it all off, she had egg-shell insecurities that got triggered at the drop of a hat.
But my student was stoic about it. She even saw it in a sort-of spiritual light – like it was her ‘karma’ to work through, and her mother-in-law’s hectoring was some sort of divine school-room, where she had the opportunity to practice compassion and acceptance.
She should really be more grateful.
I think she expected me to appreciate her point of view, even celebrate her selfless commitment to ‘acceptance’. She was certainly surprised when I called B.S on the whole thing.
‘Acceptance’ is one of these faddy words you see splashed around motivational posters and Zen Garden calendars. We don’t know all that much about it except that the Buddha seemed to be all about it, and so that’s good enough for us, right?
There’s a real danger in importing random tenets from other spiritual traditions. (There’s also a danger in taking spiritual advice from glorified accountants on the internests, so you know, buyer beware.)
For me it’s like taking a starter-motor from a Porche and whacking it in your Toyota Corolla and expecting results.
It’s all the more dangerous when we don’t actually investigate what the word we’re sticking to our fridge actually means, back before it was lifted from whatever comprehensive spiritual manual it was contained in, and then translated, more or less, into a vague English equivalent.
Now I don’t know what the original intent of the idea was. I haven’t read the Vedic Scriptures. But that’s not going to stop me sharing my two cents with you now.
(Remember, glorified accountant…)
I think in ‘acceptance’ there is a very powerful idea, and a very un-powerful idea. Same story with ‘surrender’.
The powerful version is that you meet the moment fully. You see what is for what is because you’re not letting your prejudices blind you to what is actually happening. Then you give yourself to the moment – you let the moment call whatever it needs to call out of you, and you give yourself fully, balls-and-all, to your response.
That’s the powerful version.
The unpowerful version involves hiding from the full reality of what the moment demands. It involves letting bastardised Eastern esoteric concepts justify being a total wuss-bag and letting life run all over you.
Let’s put it back in context of this problematic mother-in-law.
The standard, wussy version of acceptance is to say, well, she’s being an emotional terrorist again, but I should just keep my head down, say nothing, and duck out of the room if I hear her coming.
(… then tell myself that this kind of behaviour puts me on the path to enlightenment.)
The powerful version of acceptance says, wow, this situation is kind of crappy. I accept that and I accept my responsibility – my ability to respond. What does the situation demand of me?
If it demands that I step up and find a way to work through it, then I accept that. If it demands that I move into a space that’s really uncomfortable, then I accept that. If it demands that I step up and be a total hero, for my own and for my family’s sake, then I accept that too.
I’m not hiding from the uncomfortable reality of the moment. I accept it, and whatever it calls me to do.
This is spiritual power.
I really do wonder if something got lost in translation. “Accept” is such a passive idea. I wonder if something like ‘sacrifice’ might be better.
“My mother-in-law is being a total banshee lately, but I will sacrifice my fear of the uncomfortable, and just do what needs to be done.”
That rings better, doesn’t it?
And I think it works well because, as Aussies, sacrifice=heroism is written into our DNA. Take the ANZACs. They got lobbed into a crappy situation. Plopped on the wrong beach at the wrong time by the Brits, they were pushing up ridiculous slopes against a formidable and spirited enemy.
But they didn’t practice ‘acceptance’ and just let the Turks slaughter them. They practiced sacrifice – they did what needed to be done, as tough as it was, in the name of their country and for the sake of their mates.
They gave the fight everything they had.
But look, the point is, if your dressing up avoidance as acceptance, don’t expect any enlightenment points from me. And if you want to grow and improve your situation, then practice sacrifice – the simple art of just doing what needs to be done.
It really might be as simple as that.
Is ‘sacrifice’ and better word than ‘acceptance’?