Anything else gums up the works… probably not irreparably, but it can get pretty gummy.
I learned that a long, long time ago.
The people I want to spend the most time with?
They accept me for who I am – warts and all, silliness and all… nutty and serious and deep and shallow thinking (and ponderin’) and all.
But the key? The key is not to stop with myself.
That would be self-centered (I looked it up).
If I want to be a person that other people want to be around, I have to genuinely accept them too.
And be curious about their lives.
Interested in their opinions.
Be open to the way they choose to live and love and hate and cry and laugh and be.
I don’t have to agree with everything a friend or beloved family member says or does (impassioned discussions can be awesome, and sometimes holding my tongue is crucial), but acceptance of them, who they are as humans? Essential.
And it can’t be false.
Faking acceptance leads to counterfeit friendships and relationships, one-sided stuff. Eventual misunderstandings. People can get hurt. Those relationships never last, are never truly healthy.
But true, mutual acceptance?
Well, that can lead to the kinds of friendships and family relationships that yield the kinds of love and respect and awe that poets and thinkers and writers have to reach for the words to describe.
But here’s the thing.
We humans are ridiculously adept at making the simple complex, and then forgetting – or getting too busy – to remember that it is possible to boil those complexities right back down to the simple stuff.
We get all tangled up in our relationship histories, childhoods, family position, birth order, the sun’s position in the astrolo-morphical universe when we are born, or how we prefer to hang our toilet paper. But, regardless of all of those admittedly super complex and niggly aspects of happenstance that haunt our psyches?
We simply want to be accepted for who we are.
When you realize that – that we truly share that sameness, in a world where we all want to be as unique and special as snowflakes – a light dawns.
Sure, that light might illuminate the fact that there are narcissists and psychos out there that don’t give a flying fluck whether you or I accept them or not…
But most of us do care.
And most of us can reciprocate, whether it’s with one special person or a whole group – or a gaggle or bloat or murder or leap or tower or ostentation* – of other beings.
When you realize this, it becomes just that much easier to open up and begin truly accepting others – their thoughts, opinions, choices.
The trick is to lean in, to learn more about someone – who they are, and where they’re coming from – before carefully removing the leash from the very thing that clouds and obfuscates acceptance in a big way…
Our own fears.
Those fears – based on our own experiences, failures, and voices in our heads – can be nasty things, winding their tentacles around the neck of reason, and then squeezing and choking until judgement is all that’s left.
And it is judgement that kills acceptance.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually think judgement is an important and necessary superpower. However, as with all superpowers, it must be respected.
Because it can be used for good… or evil.
For instance, my own power of judgement has often kept me healthy and safe. It has also, literally, saved the lives of a couple of my children on more than one occasion.
Then again, my judgement is also central in my decision to watch The Real Housewives of New York even though it is bad, bad, bad for my brain.
So when I’m about to wield judgement – especially that with negative or self-righteous flavor – I try very hard to ask myself a pretty simple question:
What if I’m wrong?
If love and friendship are two of the most precious positives in life, the consequences can be massive.
To risk our hearts for the sake of romantic or familial love, or in friendships, and to believe that others will risk theirs in return…
That requires faith.
Faith in fellow human beings which, if you watch the news, appears to be in short supply as of late (but I’m not buying it).
We are beings driven toward good stuff, stuff that makes us feel good, makes us happy.
Those guys Pavlov and Skinner proved that in some sort of science-y experiments a wicked long time ago.
Love and friendship are ‘feel good’ things.
And when they happen? It’s pretty awesome.
OHMYGAWD I need an experiment!
Can anyone tell me how to replace meat and rat food with joy and smiles (and maybe a little wonder) as reward mechanisms?
How about how to wire my car battery or hair dryer for negative reinforcement-type shocks in case one of my subjects gets too judge-y…
They don’t have to be lethal or anything…
Thanks for readin’.
*Yes, those are real words for real groups of beings! Sure, not human beings but check it out: A gaggle or geese, a bloat of hippos, a murder of crows, a leap of leopards, a tower of giraffes, and an ostentation of peacocks! (I am telling you, Sesame Street has nothing on me in the edutainment department).
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