Archive for February, 2015

My thoughts on healthy acceptance of what we cannot change in life

“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.’ . . . Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” – Romans 15:1-3, 7(NIV)

A New Resolve: “I cannot change others and must strive to accept them as they are, not as I would wish them to be.”

If you are anything like me, it’s often a struggle to accept people as they are. Especially those who are close to us!

The crunch comes the closer people get to each other –

Wives accepting husbands

Husbands accepting wives

Parents accepting Children

Children accepting parents

Brothers accepting sisters

Sisters accepting brothers

Co-workers accepting co-workers

And the list goes on!

The reality is that people will not and cannot change to meet all of our demands and expectations. To live in hope that this will happen is a false reality.

The verses quoted above come from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans in the New Testament. This age-old dilemma of not being able to accept others was of course an issue in the early church. Paul’s words are quite challenging for us even today.

The model for the follower of Jesus is to accept others regardless of their failures and weaknesses just as God has accepted us in Jesus.

When we stop and reflect on it the word “unconditional” should come to mind. God’s love toward us is not conditioned on our ability to change ourselves and “clean up our act” so that we can make ourselves more acceptable to God.

When we were hopeless and heartless cases God reached out to us in His Son. Jesus Christ demonstrated His love for us through sacrificial service even to the point of death. Throughout the ages God has been making allowances for us to come to Him in a personal relationship just as we are!

Several years ago my wife was talking to a woman who had been attending Bible Studies for several months but had been unable to commit her life to Jesus in a personal way. When my wife discovered what was blocking her it was the problem of her smoking! Another Christian worker had told her that unless she “gave up” smoking God would not accept her.

This is actually the opposite of the Gospel of Jesus. The good news is that we can never “clean up” our lives enough to be acceptable to God. That is why God has made our redemption possible through Jesus.

It’s also helpful to realize that as we take a closer look at Scripture we see that God has the ability to separate us from our sins and failings and does not judge our value as people based on what we do or don’t do.

Finite beings though we are, we often have difficulty separating people from what they do. When the actions of others displease us we tend to judge them and “write them off” in our books as being unacceptable.

I think this works in tandem with how we view ourselves. If we are unable to separate our own failings from our “worthiness” as human beings and forgive ourselves it will be difficult to forgive and accept others. The deep knowledge that our sins and failures do not define who we are will pave the way for us to extend the same grace to others.

Paul’s instructions to us are for the stated purpose of “building others up” instead of tearing them down. When you think about it this is what God is in the process of doing with us. Paul says that being able to accept others unconditionally is a sign of strength – not weakness. The more we grow in this area the stronger we become.

If we truly believe in a personal God who has revealed Himself through Jesus and accepts us unconditionally when we turn to Him how much more should we be accepting of others regardless of their shortcomings or attitudes toward us?

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My thoughts on healthy acceptance of what we cannot change in life

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” – Psalm 139:13-16 (NIV)

A New Resolve: “I cannot change the person I was created to be. To live well I must develop a healthy sense self-acceptance and self-compassion.”

Have you ever considered the question – “If I weren’t myself, who would I like to be?”

I’m sure at times we all go through stages of wondering what life would be like if we were actually walking in someone else’s shoes. I know I do.

For those of us raised on the western hemisphere there is a huge amount of pressure put upon us to “develop ourselves” and reach our full potential as human beings. To a degree this can be a healthy thing. I’m certainly a fan of personal development and life-long learning.

We can also become so dissatisfied with life that we loathe the person that we are. We can excuse our own behavior because we feel cheated in some way that we didn’t inherit the gifts and abilities that people who are successful seem to have. It’s a difficult thing not to compare ourselves to others even at the best of times.

For some of us who have been raised by parents who perhaps struggled with their own identity we can be subject to messages of shame and get the idea that life would be a whole lot better if we were someone other than who we actually are.

Over the past several years I’ve been grappling with the possibility that for many years of my life I really didn’t like myself very much. If I’m honest there’s probably more things about myself that I would like to change rather than living out my true identity of who I was created to be.

On the other hand, the Psalmist quoted above bursts out in gratitude to God when he reflects on how God made and designed him. He says, “I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

How often do we stop to thank God for how we are made and designed? This is the poetry of self-acceptance.

It means –

Accepting and valuing myself as a Creation of a personal God

Accepting my own strengths as well as my weaknesses

Accepting my personality as God crafted it

Accepting my gifts, knowing that I have unique abilities just as much as anyone else

Accepting my physical limitations and my humanity (no one is actually Superman!)

In recent years there has been some excellent research and writing done on the subject of shame and self-compassion. Studies have shown that those who have a greater degree of compassion for others are first of all compassionate with themselves.

It’s fortunate that we now live in an era when self-awareness is seen as a value. By taking an honest view of ourselves we can actually learn to be less critical of ourselves and then extend that insight to others.

I’m learning that a harsh and unaccepting approach to myself will, like a form of contagious cancer, spread to others around me. But an honest appreciation of myself as God created me to be can only be beneficial to me as well as to others.

Would that we all could share the same attitude as the Psalmist who exclaimed, Thank you, God, for making me just as You did. You knew what you were doing! How can I argue with that?” (paraphrase mine!)

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