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There are few issues more basic to a person’s overall sense of well-being than the need for acceptance. The widely different outcomes in the lives of people based on the degree to which they either experienced or were denied acceptance has been the subject of numerous studies and much literature on human development and behavior. We don’t need exhaustive studies to explain the plight of the child who was either chosen last or not picked at all for activities involving peers. That is a familiar scene to all of us.
I had the experience early in life of being praised and complimented when I volunteered an answer in school. In the third grade, tryouts were being held for a class musical. During the casting for three clown parts, I shouted,”I can stand on one finger!” I immediately placed an index finger under my shoe and “stood on one finger,” I got the part, and the acceptance I experienced encouraged me to speak up and spontaneously say whatever came to mind. I gained the acceptance of being told I have a way with words.
I am fortunate that my early experiences were largely positive and gained me the acceptance and approval of others. I am aware that many people do not find that kind of acceptance. Like many of us, I have known people who engaged in elaborate behavior only to be rejected by others. In a few cases, I have seen this behavior become so extreme that it led to serious negative consequences. The attention this type of behavior gains is as far from acceptance as it can be.
As we grow up, our behaviors can take on the form of ideas. As we share these ideas, one of the things we are seeking is acceptance. As these ideas deepen and become our core values and beliefs, sharing these ideas with others carries the possibility that our beliefs and our values will either be accepted by others or rejected by them.
To further clarify acceptance, let me say that I have always enjoyed discussing ideas with people who hold opinions different from mine. I learn from people who have deeply held beliefs that reflect a different point of view. This level of acceptance requires us to distinguish between a person and their ideas. It also requires an understanding that acceptance does not necessarily mean agreement.
As we move forward, it is a good idea to look at our own lives and the areas where we feel accepted. What does that mean? Do people we are in relationship with us have the ability to accept us if we have differences in ideas and or beliefs? Does the respect in these relationships go beyond ideas we may or may not hold in common?
I hope you, like me, accept and respect people with whom you may disagree or whose ideas and beliefs you may not share. Remember, acceptance of another person does not mean you agree with everything they think. As we move forward, let us keep the difference between integrity and ideas clear. That way we can all grow in our understandings of one another and our acceptance of one another.
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