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Acceptance in human psychology is a person’s assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it, protest, or exit. Our society has become one of hatred and unacceptance. Whether it is unacceptance of race differences or wearing of masks. Our country has become intolerable, where tolerance is a virtue and many do not seek it. To be accepted by others, just for being ourselves with differences, is a critical human virtue. To be rejected or ostracized by others is the opposite of acceptance. We as humans have a particular need for acceptance by those in authority and those who we want to be our friends. We also want to be able to walk down the street without getting beat up because we are Asian. Being accepted leads to being treated with respect and afforded status of some kind.

Tolerance is a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from our own, but it is not enough. Tolerance is still a virtue and it is a version of the golden rule that we treat others as they treat us – decently. In addition, it is a formula for a functioning of society that has wars between different religions, political ideologies, nationalities, ethnic groups, and other us-versus-them divisions. It is a basis for the first amendment protections that enabled the United States to avoid the religious strife that has plagued Europe for centuries and is present in Israel today with Palestine. Acceptance goes a step beyond tolerance. A sign of tolerance is a feeling of living with that different race, religion or behavior. A sign of acceptance moves beyond tolerating that difference. You can tolerate something without accepting it, but you cannot accept something without tolerating it.

Acceptance of others, especially feelings, is not easy when people act differently than we do. Most of us have trouble accepting those who are different from us. By learning the skill of empathy, we will be better able to understand ourselvesand thosewho are different from us. Have you ever had a hard time being accepted by others? Whether it be at work or a new group of friends?  We can all relate to feeling unaccepted at one time or another. On the other hand, many of us can think of a time that we had trouble accepting someone else.

Acceptance is the ability to see that others have a right to be their own unique person. That means having a right to their own feelings, thoughts and opinions. When you accept people for who they are, you let go of your desire to change them. You let them feel the way they want to feel, you let them be different and think differently from you. Everyone is different in one way or another. Once you understand this, you can stop trying to change them into the people you want them to be and start accepting them for who they are. Acceptance of others’ feelings is not easy when people act differently than we do.

Here are some ideas for learning to accept others:

  • Don’t try to control the feelings of others. With feelings, there is no right or wrong answer. We must allow people to have feelings without telling them how they should feel.
  • Allow others to be different. If everyone looked the same, acted the same, had the same personality, the same interests and the same experiences, we would lose interest in other people pretty quickly. Even though we know that differences between people are for the best, sometimes we feel uncomfortable with it and we either try to change people who are different or we avoid, or ignore them. Accepting the difference is the best.
  • Give thoughtful advice. Once you learn to grant others the right to their own feelings and allow them to be different, you will be better able to give thoughtful, meaningful advice. Have you ever tried to talk to other people about your problems, only to have them give you terrible advice in return? Many of us let our own feelings get in the way of hearing, understanding and providing thought advice. In order to show empathy and acceptance, you must learn to give advice in a way that is in line with other people’s’ unique feelings, thoughts, characteristics and personality.
  • Try not to judge. It’s easy to see other people’s differences and flaws. Sometimes we judge and criticize people without being aware it. The more challenging, empathetic and accepting response is to see the good in each person. When we accept others as they are, it means that we understand that they are doing the best that they can do at the time.
  • Try not to compare. The key to accepting people as they are is learning not to compare. Unfortunately, we all do it. We compare ourselves to others and there are always differences such as skin color, wealth, prestige, religion, politics and other beliefs. Instead, we must accept that each person is different. This is not easy, especially today in politics and religion.

The next time that you are having trouble accepting someone, remember these five strategies. Using them will help you relate to the person and be more empathetic. When you practice accepting others, you will be able to make it a habit. And when you make acceptance a habit in your life, you will become a more positive, happy person and the world will change. Acceptance of others, what better way to “add life to years”.

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