How deeply poignant, our struggle to “accept”.  How painfully overwhelming to wrestle with surges of agonizing grief, the black ocean of shame, the fear of what may come, or the steadfast desire to make things right.

We know beyond any doubt, and from our own experience, that some kind of acceptance would resolve, at least to a degree, the ferocity of the conflict within us.  And yet, the imperative to hang on to our idea of how things should be is so strong that it feels as though our very identity will die if we even imagine moving into harmony with our pain.

And, there is a measure of truth in that.

There is courage in the struggle for what is right.  There is an uplifting quality to our fervor when we plant the flag of outrage and refuse to move from it.  It makes us feel as though the ground beneath our feet has substance, if only temporarily.  And, we find it preferable to settle for this illusion of being right, because it gives us a little strength in the face of the thing that we can’t accept.  But, the pain is still there.

It is natural, it is our nature, to rise up against that which is wrong, or hurtful, dangerous or frightening.  We are compelled to act, and to act courageously.  The result is that we can, and do, improve our lives, our world, or even just a tiny portion of it.  Though the way is fraught with loss and heartache, we are willing, both alone and collectively, to do what is necessary.

And yet, although it is our nature to take a stand against what is wrong, there are times when we recognize that the battle or the event has come and gone.  The damage is done.  The world has moved on, but we have not.  We continue to fight – to fight the pain, the scars, the woundedness.  There are times when we realize that acceptance is called for, but even the idea of acceptance is abhorrent.  It seems an affront to our very nature to back down.  On what ground would we stand if we were to “accept” the source of our suffering?  What would that mean?  Who would we be?

The battle or event has come and gone.  The damage is done.  I can’t go backwards in time and change the myriad conditions that made my mother the person she was.  It is not possible to un-do the trauma.

We beg to know why.  If there were a reason, it might make sense.  In our desperation, we generate reasons – I was bad.  I was ugly.  I am broken.  We know in the depths of our hearts that this is not so.  It is our nature, it is the human way, to be able to put something to rest if there is a reason.  Human mind loves order, even at the expense of a lie that cripples us.

So, here we are, chasing our tails.  We can’t get in, we can’t get out.  Around and around we go, in denial, in anger, in pain.  We see no way out and no way through.  We cry out silently for someone to hear us, to help us.  We await the rescue that never comes, and out of the corner of our eye, we see acceptance as the only doorway.

What might that acceptance look like?  What if it weren’t as much like “giving up” or capitulating as we imagine it to be?  What if acceptance opened our hearts, gave us peace, made us stronger, and gave us back our dignity in such a way that we not only felt whole, but lighter, more spacious and loving?  And perhaps most important, what if we could do this in such a way that we get to keep the truth about what happened to us?

Peace does not appear when we push our pain away.  It appears when we stand hand in hand with it, in compassion.  Peace, real peace, arises when we stop struggling.

And there’s only one trick to it.  You must hold your own situation with as much tenderness as you would that of someone you love.

chicken hands bwHold it gently, in hands so kind that you begin to see the courage that you have had all along.  Recognize that your fight, your struggle, has been the human experience of rising up to right a wrong.  Have respect and compassion for that.  Recognize that your inability to make it right, or to find a reason for what happened is also the human experience.  It is not your failing.  This very brokenness, this uncertainty, is the ground upon which we all stand.

Envision this struggle, this pain that you carry, as the most precious thing in the world – not as something to cling to and identify with, but as the radiant core of our very human-ness.  Carry it with a child-like wonder that continuously expands and includes everything with heart-breaking tenderness.

It takes a little bit of practice.  Our habit of struggle is very strong.  But it erodes remarkably easily.  Don’t be deceived by the comfortable familiarity of your pain.  It would tell you that you are doomed to be plagued by your anguish for all eternity.  We like what is comfortable and familiar, even when it’s killing us.

Peace, real peace, arises when we stop struggling.  Peace begins with the love that you already have, and the courage to shine that light on your own heart.  Please be gentle.

Photo credit: © studiofascino –

49 Comments on “Acceptance

  1. This is a lovely and beautiful piece. So much truth. I loved every single last word, especially the part about being comfortable and familiar. Shine on Zen Doe, you are a warm and golden light. Thank you for that.

    • Thank you for reading, and for the “shine on”, wtf. I’ve read so many heart breaking posts lately from people who are thinking about what acceptance might be like. Just wanted to throw in my two cents worth.

  2. ZD,
    Your good work here has obviously gotten my thinking. Thanks.

    Many people I’ve worked with (in years past) struggled with the concept of “forgiveness”. Many had been told they must “forgive and forget” people who’ve hurt them “before they can move on”. But the concept of forgiveness has accrued some burdensome connotations over time.

    The requirement of “forgiveness” left many people feeling stuck and thinking they have to “let them off the hook” and erase memories before they could live a more comfortable and freer life.

    This is far from truth.

    I prefer this concept of “acceptance” over “forgiveness”. It has the sense that one can live WITH the past and whatever memories are there. One can “accept” that bad things happened in the unchangeable past, hold people responsible for their actions (so as not to put oneself back in danger) and at the same time detach from the life focus on anger, pain and suffering.

    Thanks. You’ve done a lovely job of explaining this (and so much more).

    • I agree completely. When it is possible to forgive, by all means do. When it is not, then finding a way to live, unburdened and free, finding a way to open the heart again, this is what counts. Personally, I have found that although I decline to forgive her, I do have immense compassion for her. I can accept that. 😉

    • I’m so very happy that you read this. I’ve read a lot of your blog, and this was written in part for you. My love to you.

  3. Lovely writing that has me thinking. I do believe that a big part of why so many of us struggle to accept our realities is that we do not want to give up the illusion that we have control. Control over what happens to us, how it happens, when it happens, and perhaps most importantly, why it happens. We may have some influence, but no control. When we give up our illusions of control we are better able to flow with the river of acceptance. From there, it is only a few short steps to non-attachment where we are truly free and at peace.

    • Yes Carol. We imagine that if we stay in “control” we can prevent further injury or hurt. Sadly, as you say, it doesn’t work that way. And our efforts contract us and cause us so much misery.

    • Thank you, Jenna. I’m so glad that you found something in the words that resonates with you. Be well, ZD

  4. I echo the comments above, powerful, insightful, and compassionate writing, Zen Doe. One of your sentences resonated with me deeply: “Carry it with a child-like wonder that continuously expands and includes everything with heart-breaking tenderness.” Wow, if we could only embrace all life with “heart-breaking tenderness.”
    I recently saw Jeff Foster and he talked about radical acceptance. He compared our emotions to children who come to your door. They are our children, yet many of these children we refuse to see or let in. Or we say, “you can come in, but only if you promise to leave immediately.” True acceptance embraces all these children, even if it means the possibility of the difficult ones staying forever. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

  5. ZD, I resonate so much with what you write. There are experiences in my childhood that have left me deeply wounded, and I’ve done exactly that struggling you talk about – until recent years, when I’ve finally started to learn what “acceptance” of my life means. You describe it so well: “You must hold your own situation with as much tenderness as you would that of someone you love.”
    Thank you so much again.
    Oh, and the photo, it says it all! I love it.

    • It amazes me how we have the compassion and love to fully embrace those whom we love, but we can’t find that compassion for our own situations. It’s ego, I know, but it’s sooo painful. I’m so happy that you’ve been discovering what acceptance means in your life. If we’re lucky, this kind of wisdom is one of the benefits of not being at the very beginning of our journey anymore. Peace and love to you.

  6. I can’t begin to tell you how beautiful this is. Time and again you take me into a part of myself that I am always seeking to reach, and I’m lifted there as if on wings. All I can really say is thank you!

    • You’ve got me choked up, dapplegrey. The wings are yours. I just hold up a mirror so you can see them.

    • hands palm to palm, miriam louisa. I’m so glad you read and commented. It’s always good to see you here.

  7. Such a tender and powerful piece about acceptance, and beautifully written as usual. There is so much truth in your words, acceptance sounds easy and yet is one of the hardest most painful processes.Until we accept who we are, rather than fighting to be who we think we should be, we are always going against the grain of ourselves. But to accept we have to be courageous enough to untie the fabric we have woven around our life, and to expose the vulnerable parts we were ashamed of. Very hard, but once done the relief is incredible 🙂

    • That’s it exactly! Your comment is better than my post! 🙂
      Thanks so much for being part of this discussion.

      • Oh I have to disagree, your post has wonderful pace and rhythm, and your calm wise voice shines out of your words. Thanks to you for posting and inspiring 🙂

  8. You are very wise, thank you for sharing your wisdom, for sometimes, even though we think we know all we need to know about this life of ours, how to love, how to grieve, how to deal with anger, pain, etc. even though we have read loads and even though we have may have come a long way in our personal journey, of being true to ourselves, even then, we find wisdom from another source and we are filled once more, with the peace that comes from understanding, and acceptance, a little bit more than the last time. Thank you Zen Doe.

  9. “There is an uplifting quality to our fervor when we plant the flag of outrage and refuse to move from it. It makes us feel as though the ground beneath our feet has substance, if only temporarily. And, we find it preferable to settle for this illusion of being right, because it gives us a little strength in the face of the thing that we can’t accept. But, the pain is still there.”

    “Human mind loves order, even at the expense of a lie that cripples us.”

    Great observations.
    Great image to go along with them.
    Fabulous post. Sharing on FB.

  10. Your words are so beautiful. You took me from that pain I’ve felt all my life from what happened in childhood thru to now and the acceptance and the freedom of letting go. What a wonderful experience to feel, to relive that empowering journey. Thank you.

  11. Hi Zen Doe, I am happy to find your beautiful blog tonight and read this post which you have so lovingly and beautifully crafted about acceptance. From all the comments it is obviously a tender spot for many, myself included. Your observation is so true that the human mind wants the Why, seeks to try to understand life on an intellectual level when in reality that is simply impossible. I have spent the past three years of my own life trying to find the ‘why’ in hopes of somehow finding acceptance through that way, and I am finally beginning to see that some things simply ARE. Life is full of paradox and mystery and not knowing why, and here is where acceptance becomes imperative to self-love and compassion for self and others.
    I would like to reblog your post if I may, and share your eloquence with my own readers. Namaste, and blessings, Leigh

  12. Pingback: Our struggle to accept | clearskies, bluewater

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