Acceptance: A Necessary Risk

11/30/2011 12:15 pm ET | Updated Jan 29, 2012

What does it mean to practice acceptance in our closest relationships?

Acceptance, like its blood relative, forgiveness, is a matter for serious study.

One of the largest realities showcased in the news today is a profound lack of acceptance in our society.

This is a time of fighting celebrity headliners and the media's obvious obsession with public brawling. Black Friday? A cheap invitation to blood and chaos in this economy.

The lust is on for nastiness. ratings boom.

We couldn't witness a more shallow and non-accepting time.

It is reported that even President Obama and John Boehner have stopped speaking. Wait a minute! Isn't this relationship necessary for the country?

The media is going more and more tabloid, heavily featuring examples of just about everyone fighting.

The Republican candidates are at it against the Democrats and each other, Obama's anger directed toward someone specifically matched by his personal ratings requirements du jour, David Letterman vs. ABC on behalf of Regis, various reality show Housewives pitted in teams against each another, the women representing a number of unfortunate cities in catty combat.

The extreme absence of "acceptance" between people is everywhere highlighted for us to swallow, digest, and repeat in our own lives.

I know, I know. It's easy to blame the media for presenting the worst in human behavior, calling it "news" or "entertainment", boldly role-modeling the bad and the ugly.

Of course we are responsible for our own behavior at all times.

And yet, how many people care to be deliberate in word and action?

How heavy is the impact of reality shows and celebrity fights screeching the decline of the reasonable human?

As the Dolby sound movie theater commercials say, "The audience is listening".
I believe it.

Many people tell me stories about not being able to accept the people in their lives. They often stop answering the phone or telling the truth about it.

I'm happy to encourage communication in these cases.
It's always worth a try to see if a troubled relationship is fluid and made of quality stuff. At least the quality of being able to respectfully discuss hurtful differences.

This lack of acceptance of what is, from what I can see, is currently playing out as a new normal of extreme emotional disengagement in our private and public lives. People are exhausted and disinclined to go deep. Disagreement is too deep, and the effort to avoid the ugly has ushered in a silencing wave of Political Correctness.

This has led to the big yawning of America.
When people stop talking about what is real, it's a society yawning.
Political correctness is a dangerous snore.
The fear and control against any degree of discord or confrontation, as if that's the worst experience, seems to be exhausting the public psyche.

Is this the result of people going unconscious by marinating in pretend television relationships gone haywire?
Is it fatigue brought on by constantly hearing virtual clashes between other people?
Perhaps all of this hateful non-acceptance has become the wallpaper of our lives, narcotizing us to not get involved or be too close.

Whatever the reasons, rejection and confrontation phobia means that people have stopped talking.

They have figured a way to be around people but not with them.

Acceptance is tricky.
Acceptance requires knowing another person, apart from who I am.
It means clearly seeing, not spinning or hoping to polish, the character of the other to fit what I want.

Sometimes what you will face between you and someone close is a mild difference of opinion, be it political or personal.
Mild enough if you are able to discuss and listen to the other person's different take on a matter.
This is not goodbye. In this case, the differences fold, whether neat or sloppy, into the recipe of that relationship.

In other cases, the sad truth may be that the relationship is no longer possible.
In other words, to accept is not always to continue.

I suspect this is the core fear that keeps us from knowing, and wanting to know, another person in an intimate way.

Knowing brings a relationship crossroads, where people may choose to become mute and unreal, while continuing in a pretend way to walk a shared road.
To embrace a distance that is numbing yet avoids the sharp pain of loss is a popular choice.

What is acceptance of another person?
Acceptance is inconvenient.
It demands honest thought and feeling when it doesn't feel great.

Acceptance is essential for emotional clarity about ourselves, but is no guarantee of an ongoing relationship outcome.

To accept is to see.
To see is to respond.
To respond is to choose.
Do I continue to choose this relationship?

Theoretically, Obama and Boehner are working together, so they have to choose, accept, and maintain the relationship.
Apparently they need some help with that.

In our personal lives, there is no chance of having real relationship without acceptance.

The risk is, with acceptance, there is the possibility of not wanting to choose it.