Hope versus Acceptance
Acceptance as the Answer…
The spiritual paradigm to which I subscribe claims that “…acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.” Knowing – and believing – this for years, I never stopped to consider the implications of focusing on “Acceptance” in a world that prefers to live in “Hope.”
Someone I know from the Buddhist tradition explained to me recently that “Hope” is not a concept they personally use in their life. Hope, they explained, creates desire, and desire creates want, which can create expectations, which lead to suffering. Eventually, inevitably, our expectations will not be met, and we will become disappointed or resentful. Suffering is the end result.
My Christian roots are embedded in the concept of Hope. But here I am, wondering, is Hope a useful concept for me?
When Bad Things Happen to Good People
I’ve grown to dislike the notion that good will always come out of bad circumstances. I believe we need to be very careful when offering advice to people who are suffering. Telling them things like “There’s a reason this happened to you. One day it will all make sense,” is dangerous. Why? Because maybe that’s not true. Maybe it’s just crappy, and maybe there will be nothing good that will come out of it.
This is where the concept of Hope breaks down. Such a person can hope for better things, but what if such things never come? What if this person has suffered – and continues to suffer – traumatic events repeatedly, and nothing good ever does come of it? Holding on to hope can be the worst thing they can do.
This is where “Acceptance” can help.
“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me. And I can find no serenity unless I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is meant to be at this moment.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4 th ed., p. 417)
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is a therapeutic modality that relies on the concept of acceptance in the face of really bad circumstances. Whether these circumstances are perceived or real, the first step in overcoming them is to accept that they are what they are. Fighting against them does me no good. It is what it is. DBT asks me to radically accept the crap that comes my way, while working to improve my situation.
Does this require Hope? Some would say yes. Some would say there has to be “Hope” in order to be motivated enough to radically accept the bad stuff, believing that it can and will get better. I’m not so sure. DBT is an action-based therapy that requires we DO something first to generate a result. So,
sometimes in the face of no hope, we radically accept anyhow, and then we become just a little bit motivated to try to improve our lot. Is this because we’ve created some hope? I don’t think so. I think it’s because we’ve gotten into action by first deciding to “radically accept” the cards we’ve been dealt.
And there’s the answer to improving our lot. Deciding to accept what is, so we can get about the business of creating the vision we have for our lives. If hope results, so be it, but I’m thinking it’s not the correct starting point. Acceptance is.
How Can I Help You?
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