Some people’s lives seem naturally filled with good, close relationships while others have a difficult time getting along with anyone. I certainly don’t have an easy answer for why these disparities exist. We only have control over some things. Thus, my focus is on what we can do to make life better.
The habits we use can either nurture or destroy relationships. This reality is addressed by Dr. Glasser in, “Take Charge of Your Life,” where he lists his seven “caring habits:” supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting, and negotiating differences.
I’ve been focusing on each habit, one at a time. The time has come to take a look at acceptance.
The inclusion of acceptance as one of the caring habits has been difficult for me to understand. What did Glasser mean? Surely he could not have meant that we must accept any and all behaviours from our fellows? Because you and I both know that some of the things that people do are simply not acceptable.
We would not accept a parent abusing a child, a child abusing a parent, or partners abusing each other. People bully, cheat, lie and do terrible things to each other. What does Glasser mean by including acceptance as a caring habit?
We can’t ask Dr. Glasser for an explanation now, but having witnessed his sense of humour, I suspect that if we did, he might say something along the lines of, “You could start by accepting what I’ve written.” That’ll make us think, eh?
My thinking about acceptance goes to situations where people choose not to accept the truth—the reality—of who another person is. I suspect you’ve seen examples of this yourself.
For example, we picture what the person could be—nicer, prettier, more successful, or with other desirable traits. If only they’d put in the effort. That is, we want them to change. Just a little. Nothing serious.
In some cases, our efforts to accomplish the change we want ultimately destroy the relationship. I imagine you’ve seen people attempt to coerce others into making a change. They nag, bribe, argue, withhold love and approval—destructive methods that attempt to get someone to do what we want them to do.
Where does acceptance enter this picture? My interpretation is that acceptance brings us the clarity to see the other person for who they really are, rather than who we imagine them to be or wish them to be. Real people are imperfect. Do we need to accept their imperfections? Ultimately, it depends on what we want.
We can choose to accept differences. Other people have different likes, needs, wants, and opinions than we do. That’s part of the delight—we are different!
People can change, and sometimes do. Can positive changes be encouraged? Yes. How? We can provide information. We can make offers to be helpful. We can set an example, demonstrating that life is better—for ourselves and for others—when lived in a certain way.
However, each of us is ultimately in control of whether or not we change. We can pretend that another person will change and become the idealized version of themselves that we want. Or we can accept the person who actually exists.
What are your thoughts on acceptance?
Welcome to Reality Check:
articles and observations inspired by the work of Dr. William Glasser
- Choosing Behaviour
- Choosing Perspective
- Control and Choice
- Develop Understanding
- Doing, Thinking, Feeling, Physiology
- How it is sometimes
- Love & Belonging
- Perception & Reality
- Personal Freedom