April 1, 2011

Are We Really All that Accepting?

"I love/like you despite all of your flaws."

That sounds like a nice thing to say, so accepting, but it's not. It's a condescending, hurtful, and ego-centric thing to say. It is another way of saying, "You are flawed, and I'm such a good person, that I will put up with your crap and love/like you anyway. You aren't all that likable, but I'm going above and beyond what is required to like you."

Acceptance is often misinterpreted as being OK with the things that are wrong with people. Interpreting acceptance this way allows us to keep from looking at ourselves, and allows us to justify hurtful treatment of others, while keeping ourselves on a pedestal of righteousness.

But when we really accept people, we don't see them as flawed in the first place. We don't see them as inferior to us. When we accept someone, we don't have to be "a big person" for in order to accept them. Acceptance means that there are no flawed people.

True love and acceptance is impossible if we think of ourselves, or someone else as flawed. Any "love" towards a person we think is flawed is a weapon of hurt. No matter how much we try to hide our true judgments with love or acceptance, our deep feeling that they are flawed will come through in insidious ways, and cause hurt.

It's hard to love unconditionally. It's hard to keep from letting what people do and say change whether we "love" them or "like" them. But if we do change how we feel, it's not because they are bad people, or flawed, but because something in us expects them to be a certain way in order for us to be able to access the feelings we consider to be "love." Their actions aren't the problem. By saying we love someone despite their actions or despite who they are, we are putting the blame on them, and not recognizing our own responsibility for the changes that happen in us when people do things we don't like.

Let us say this message of unconditional love:

"I love/like you no matter what.

If you do something and it hurts, I will act in a way that responds to that hurt, and I take that responsibility. It doesn't change the way I feel about you or myself. No matter what anyone does or says, they are not more or less deserving of love. But I reserve the right to honor myself, and stay away from actions which hurt me, or people who I am unable to keep from hurting because of my own weaknesses. There are no flawed people, including me and you.

May I love/like unconditionally, and may I love/like responsibly."

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