Life is full of challenges. Big ones like injustice, small ones like being late for a meeting, and even small-ones-that-seem-big-in-the-moment like the challenge my wife and are facing often these days: sometimes the baby just won’t go to sleep.
When we resist our hardships, it almost always makes the situation worse. But why would we accept something if we don’t like it or think it’s wrong? Well, first of all, it’s happening. No way around that. But also, to accept something doesn’t mean you like it, or you think it’s okay. Whether you face pain, injustice, betrayal, grief, anxiety or depression, to accept doesn’t mean you’re surrendering to it. You’re not giving up. You’re just choosing to face it directly.
So, yeah, some nights the baby just won’t sleep. We can resist that fact, pity ourselves or wish it simply weren’t happening, but then we tense up, we frantically problem-solve, and the whole situation becomes unbearable. But if we can accept it, we can transmute that frustration into a deep reservoir of patience and understanding.
We can remind ourselves that the baby is learning a crucial skill, and it takes time. He’s doing his best but he’s not there yet. The frustration is part of the process, and we’re facing it to support him. All we can do is take an educated guess on what he needs and do our best to provide it. Anything beyond that is wasted energy. Ahhh, I can almost immediately feel the tension release.
When heroes stand up to racism, inequality, sexism, climate change, animal cruelty, homophobia, violence, or other injustices, they often get motivation from a confrontation with their cause. They see an unfair situation first-hand, and they acknowledge the reality of that situation. They don’t run and hide, they don’t pretend it’s not happening. They keep their eyes open and clearly see what's happening. Through acceptance, they gain the strength to try to change the situation, and they even find the patience to play by the broken rules of entrenched power systems if needed.
In the case of attention activism, we can simply accept that manipulative apps, manufactured media outrage, and social media shit-storms are real. But we can also accept beautiful digital experiences, inspiring journalists, and incredible new ways to stay in touch with family and friends. We see the nuanced situation clearly and find our way to curating a more balanced life. We may also find opportunities to do our part and take effective social action in some way.
All this potential is lost if we get wrapped up in negativity and hostility, taking an accusatory tone and making blanket generations (all tech is evil, everyone who eats meat is cruel, all men are unfair to women, etc.). These views are blurry. They reflect a lack of clarity. They're lazy and they shirk our responsibility to understand our fellow human beings before we pelt them with stones.
Acceptance is not surrender. Acceptance is not endorsement. Acceptance helps us see clearly. It's the seed of inspiration and the catalyst which motivates effective action. Acceptance reveals nuance and cuts through the paralyzing fog of our negative emotions. Acceptance is the first step.
Whatever you’re facing this weekend, try accepting it fully as reality. It's happening. It is what it is.