Accepting what is true

You point to a fascinating tension, NT. Where is the line between acceptance and making change? The serenity prayer tells us to accept what we cannot change, to find the strength to change what we can, and to have the wisdom to know the difference.  

I’ve always appreciated that as a summary of the difference, but step three isn’t simple. It’s all well and good to say to accept what we cannot change, but some of the biggest triumphs of humanity come from those who do not accept as inevitable what others tell them to. From civil rights to flight, progress often comes from those who defy what others took as fixed. 

As we try to decide what we can and cannot change, it seems to me we should overestimate. I would rather strive to achieve something grand and fail, than accept an injustice or assume I cannot change something. Better to be frustrated than purposeless. But I imagine others would decide differently: they’d rather the peace that acceptance brings. That seems reasonable too. To answer your question, therefore, I think everyone has to calibrate that balance between acceptance and striving themselves, based on their preferences and what they want to achieve. 

Things are neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so

The other way to square the circle of striving and acceptance, I think, is in how we experience the world. It’s so easy to be angry or frustrated at the world: to feel that it is out to get us. It isn’t. An advantage of your ‘this is my life now’ slogan is that it reminds us that anger is wasted. The world doesn’t care. Things are, or they are not. And before you can change the world, you must see it for what it is. 

This, for me, is a general rule. I always try to see the world as it is: not to accept it in the sense of not changing it, but accept it in the sense of recognizing what is true and what is not. Remembering that bad luck happens and that I can’t expect the world to spare me helps me calm down and refocus. Even when someone has done something bad to me, it helps to remind myself that I can’t expect everyone I meet to be kind, and that there is little point in being angry at them. Regardless of what has happened, it has happened, and my responsibility is to figure out what I want to do next, not worry about the choices of others.

We’ve gotten quite philosophical recently, NT. Maybe it’s time to get more concrete. I will leave it to you: let’s leave this topic behind us for now and turn to something more crunchy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *