Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Power of Acceptance

I'm a very curious person, which can bring me either peace or sorrow. I love to learn about new things, read new books, meet new people. I love to travel, explore, analyze, and study. However, my curiosity becomes a negative thing when I start going down the road of "why me" or "why her, him, or them." That is a toxic journey.

Sometimes life can punch us in the gut, leaving us doubled-over and struggling for air. When that happens, it's easy to ask, "Why did that happen to me?" Why did I get cancer? Why did he leave me? Why did she die? Why was my daughter raped? Why was my son paralyzed in the accident? Why is my best friend critically ill? Why? Why? Why?

These kinds of questions can destroy our peace. They can leave us anxious, frustrated, and angry. They can create in us a perpetual state of victim hood.

So, instead of asking "why me," we can ask "why not me." We are human, and as mortals sometimes we and our loved ones get sick, suffer, and die. It isn't fair that sometimes good people suffer and some bad people do not. It isn't fair that some good people are lied about and abused while some bad people are celebrated and honored. When we accept the fact that life is not fair, we discover the power of acceptance.

Learning to accept the highs and lows of mortality with equanimity and grace fosters peace, compassion, and joy. As we accept that morality includes suffering, we also accept that suffering can teach us to be kinder and more merciful. Wayne Dyer said, "If I could define enlightenment briefly I would say it is 'the quiet acceptance of what is.'”

While we accept the injustices of life, we can also speak out against them. Think of the powerful people who have worked to overcome injustice without destroying their inner peace: Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, and Christ found peace amid suffering as they labored to serve those who needed comfort and respect. We can, too.

So, the next time you are tempted to ask, "why me," instead ask "what can I learn from my suffering so that I can better love others." Those who suffer can become bitter or blessed. Our attitude determines whether suffering destroys or enlightens us. The key to peace of mind is learning to accept suffering as a part of life and then to allow suffering to teach us compassion so that we can better love others.

Consider the words in the serenity prayer by Niebuhr:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

© Carol Brown

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