Yesterday, we started exposing the virtue of Acceptance, defining it as the virtue of consenting to receive the plan for our lives. This virtue finds its origin in the Stoic philosophers and has a trifecta of Orientations: people, ideas and circumstances.
Today, we are going to look at the Flip Side of Acceptance, that is to say, “What would this ostensibly desirable thing look like if we stripped wisdom from it?”, as well as examining what the absence of this virtue can lead to.
The virtue Wisdom is much like the color white on a color wheel: it is the presence of all virtues. Wisdom is at the heart of all the virtues. Remove wisdom, and the hues of all the other virtues it brings with it, from a notion and it is nothing but a husk. We are calling that lifeless husk the Flipside.
One of the Flipsides of Acceptance is apathy. The idea of consenting to our circumstances, without the tiny ray of Hopefulness that Wisdom brings can lead to a sentiment of fatality and futility. Without a hint of the virtue of Zeal, Acceptance can become tepidity.
It has happened in my life in more ways that I can count that I have come to feel tepid or apathetic. It has happened even in areas of my life that I usually quite enjoy: as much in my work life as it has in my creativity or personal style. Often this comes as a result of not actively consenting to the season of life in which I find myself: something as simple as transitioning from our regular schedule to a vacation schedule, I can lose perspective and have a period of apathy.
My youngest scalawag was a newborn dreamboat. He slept well, he eat well. He rarely cried and he smiled early and often. It was so rewarding, and this stood in stark contrast to his older brother, who was a highly-sensitive infant, who cried 100% of the time when he wasn’t sleeping.
I remember with surprising clarity the day he started reaching for things with intention. He pulled on my hair. Like, pulled. Hard. I thought it was just an accident. At that time were at my in-laws house. Later that day, my MIL was holding him, and I watched him reach for a glass on the table and to my disbelief, (in retrospect, I should not have been surprised. This child breaks everything) broke it.
Then I realized it: he was no longer the helpless little infant he had been. He started wanting to touch things and hold things and discover cause-and-effect.
That very day, as I put him down for a nap, I felt a sense of dread, because, in the midst of all the rest of my post-partum confusion and unhappiness, I was already feeling somewhat apathetic about my second child. This feeling of dread, of now having to negotiate his ability to reach for things and hurt me and break glasses on the table plunged me into darkness.
I decided, as I put him down for a nap that day that I was not going to give in to the feeling of apathy. Rather, I was going to actively give my consent to this change of season. So I lay down next to him. I thanked him for being such a good baby. I looked him in his smiley little eyes and said, “I know you need to start being curious about the world. It’s hard for me to accept this new phase, but I want you to know that I do. And no matter how I act, I do love you.” At that moment, he grabbed my glasses and pulled them off my face.
Once I had wrestled my glasses back out of his hand, I watched him fall asleep and I cried a little and then my heart felt lighter.
The benefit of this weird little interaction was two-fold: 1. It immediately provided relief to my apathy, by consenting to turning the page, and 2. It provided a blueprint for future season changes, when the simple act of saying out loud, “I know this has to change and I am here for it” has eased transitions.
The Absence of Acceptance
The refusal to live out the virtue of Acceptance can lead to all kinds of unpleasant states of the mind and of the heart: Intolerance, rebellion, the complainer’s mindset.
I truly don’t want to give these notions their day in court. If someone wants to play the devil’s advocate for them, they are welcome to waste their time.
If you can imagine a situation in your own life where you knew you were being a rebel, or you knew you were being intolerant, or you heard yourself complaining, I can pretty much bet that you also weren’t feeling tremendously happy with your situation or with a person or an idea. Is there a way in which you could have accepted your circumstances or reframed the idea that would have provided some relief?
The idea of a virtue’s heartbeat is whether we find the notion in our actions or in our thoughts. While there might be a concrete action required to demonstrate acceptance, the virtue of Acceptance resides first and foremost in our thoughts.
Acceptance is the act of recognizing and then consenting to circumstances, ideas, and people. There need not be action involved. Acceptance is a decision that can take place in our thoughts and bear all the strength and longevity of a public vow.
Repeatedly making conscious decisions to live in Acceptance can lead to an attitude of Acceptance, making it easier to demonstrate Acceptance across all circumstances, in the face of people we don’t always agree with and when confronted with ideas we don’t like.
The virtue of Acceptance is not about agreeing with people we don’t agree with; it is accepting that the person still has value and loving them in spite of the fact that we don’t agree with them. The virtue of Acceptance is not about acquiescing to ideas we don’t like, but recognizing that these ideas exist and not putting blinders on when confronted with an idea that doesn’t please us.
The virtue of Acceptance allows us to pursue, with curiosity and wisdom, ideas that are new to us, without finding ourselves swayed or disturbed by them.