Acceptance is one of the many ways toward a purposeful and serene life
I once heard a story of a group of soldiers who were captured as prisoners of war. After a year of captivity, they were released, and those who survived this terrible and traumatic situation explained what had happened to them and the events that passed in their small, dark room.
Like most prisoners of war, they received little food, little water, and no contact with the outside world. When asked what happened with those who weren’t able to survive, it became apparent that the distinguishing factor was how they chose to view their current situation and future.
- Those who were the first to pass away were described as believing they were doomed- they committed to the idea that no one would save them, that no one cared about their situation.
- Months later, the next group of soldiers to pass away were referred to as the optimistic ones: they were the ones who kept saying that they would be saved by Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then by the Spring. However, when they weren’t rescued within these allotted time frames, their devastation was profound, and their high expectations had developed into bitterness, thus leading to their lack of motivation to stay alive.
- Those who did survive described their feelings as acceptance. They accepted that they might die there in that dark room, but they also recognized that they might survive and be saved. They chose to understand that this situation was just what it was and that they had no control over the outcome, but rather that they only had control over themselves and their thoughts and beliefs and desires.
I must accept that there is little outside of myself over which I have control.
There are many times in my life when I have chosen negative thoughts, overly ambitious thoughts, or acceptance, and I would confirm the importance of this principle. To know where my control lies mean that I must accept that there is little outside of myself over which I have control. It is only in these moments of acceptance that I can see the situation for what it truly is and not as a romanticized version, but also not to settle on only seeing the potential adverse outcome. I am also a better decision-maker and boundary-setter when I am looking inward instead of outward for my power. Progressively, when I can set boundaries and make better decisions, then I am also a better friend, wife, mother, sister, daughter, and co-worker. I am not choosing to be objective about my friends and family, or even their decisions, just to understand that I can’t and won’t be making any decisions for them; but equally, as important, I won’t allow their choices to change my affection for them
“Letting go doesn’t mean that you don’t care about someone anymore. It’s just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself.” –Deborah Reber
Acceptance is often what many people consider to be the last stage in the 5 Stages of Grief. However, this commonly makes people feel like acceptance is the ultimate goal in a life full of things about which we could grieve. What I think would be important to note is that acceptance is not the end; living a meaningful and joyful life is what any person would say they prefer as the purpose for doing anything. Therefore, acceptance is merely one of the many ways toward that purposeful and serene life.
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