Replying to a reader: Topic: Mistaking Acceptance for Love Blog

Message From A Reader:

The way I understand the terms ‘love,’ ‘acceptance’ and ‘like’ is firstly to see a distinction between who a person is, (which is essentially their real nature, their personality), and their beliefs/attitudes/behaviours, (which, of course, can change with time and experiences).

I feel that acceptance is a quality of love, just as compassion and gentleness are. To me, acceptance feels like there is no judgement even while there is a complete awareness of the faults in a person. I feel that God accepts us as we are, that the closer we get to accepting ourselves as we are, the easier it will be to address the flaws we see in ourselves, and conversely, the less we accept ourselves, the harder it will be.

To want to be accepted by others is probably what most of us learned when very young. For most of us, the lack of feeling accepted by others determines our level of self-worth, and for most of us, feeling accepted by others merges into feeling liked by others. And I agree, this is a big problem.

This is where I feel it helps to differentiate ‘love and acceptance’, which relate to our real nature, and ‘liking,’ which relates to our beliefs/attitudes/behaviours. I can dislike another’s beliefs/attitudes/behaviours (or my own) but still, as you say, love the person, love their essential nature underlying these changeable things.

But I think putting ‘acceptance’ in the category where ‘love’ is, rather than in the category where ‘like’ is, is crucial. A person may not be very sensitive to feeling loved, but I think we are almost all very sensitive to feeling accepted or not, and it seems to me that this is a very good starting point to opening to love and to be loved.

When we don’t feel accepted by God, ourselves, others, we are on the back foot; it’s very difficult to move forward, to change. Conversely, when we feel accepted as we are, flaws and all, this opens a space of vulnerability, of softness, where we find the motivation to change, where we want to live up to God’s faith in us, or our faith in ourselves, or the faith others have in us.

Acceptance of a person feels like a precursor to faith in that person. It is different to liking that person. It doesn’t mean that bad treatment is permitted; it just signifies a connection that goes beneath the relationship based on a person’s behaviour/attitudes/beliefs.

My Answer:

Hi there,

I think there is a miscommunication here about the term acceptance.

What I am talking about is the desire to show ‘love’ (not real love) only to the people you find acceptable or to pursue the acceptance of others as a path for their love. These are flawed desires and do not lead to love either in yourself or in the other person.

What you seem to be talking about is the quality of accepting the value, worth, and true nature of all people. I agree that this is a quality that you see in love.

I do disagree with a few concepts in your message though.

We do not need the acceptance of God or others to grow qualities like the motivation to change, vulnerability, and softness. Feeling accepted especially with all our flaws, by God and others, before we make any personal changes, often leads to a motivation to never change. I have seen others and experienced myself the desire to stay quite hard and stubborn to making any personal changes because of the belief that God and other people accept us as we are.

A being who truly loves will seek understanding and will never punish or judge our own unloving flaws, but they also will never support our flaws or help us to avoid the painful consequences of us continuing to have and act on desires that have nothing to do with love.

This is the difference between love and the ‘acceptance’ I am talking about. A person who accepts you in this way is just as likely to pretend you don’t have any unloving flaws or help you mitigate the consequences of your flaws, because they have an expectation that you do the same for them, or that you will show ‘love’ to them eventually. People call this love, when it isn’t love at all and does not mirror God’s Love of us in any way. Family groups engage in this kind of ‘love’ all the time.

There is also a flip-side issue of people believing that God or others don’t feel that they have any value, worth or an acceptable true nature, because God or others don’t support their unloving desires and actions. For instance, a person may not feel ‘loved’ or accepted if the lies they tell their partner are not supported by their best friend or their family.

Either way the acceptance I’m talking about is not a quality of love.

In relation to my earlier point about love, loving another doesn’t require faith in them, or their goodness, or their eventual change of heart. Real love is a gift, something that comes from you, free from any requirements on the other person. If there are requirements, then it’s not love.

Faith to me is the absolute truthful understanding of what is going to occur based on facts and experience. If you don’t understand or have misinterpreted your ‘facts’ and experience, then it’s not real faith, it’s a belief.

You don’t need to find someone acceptable or have them accept you to have faith in who they are and what they are going to do next.

But I can definitely see how accepting and understanding the value, worth, true nature, and flaws of a person like God does, could be a part of true faith in what the future holds for that person and whoever interacts with them. However the only way to gain this kind of faith is to emotionally move through any obstacles we have to loving the person in question first and then receive the truth of the person’s full nature from god. This process is the same for growing faith in God.

Thanks for the message