“To be accepted is to have your whole person, good or otherwise, received by another without condemnation.”
“God has made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-9).
We are told to ‘accept one another just as Christ also accepted you, to the glory of God.’ (Romans 15:7) Acceptance is to receive someone into relationship, love God wholeheartedly, and love your neighbor as yourself.
What does the word acceptance mean to you?
What must change in you to practice a lifestyle of acceptance with no thought of condemnation, judgment or criticism? (Keys to Brilliant Focus, Graham Cooke)
What is your first response to this? My knee-jerk reaction was, “I criticize a lot of people. Wow, I should really work on this.” I stopped for a moment and realized that my initial reaction wasn’t going to get me anywhere because that isn’t the point of these questions. The point is to reveal to us the nature of God which is to say that He isn’t critical at all. He isn’t judgmental, and He doesn’t condemn. Any other theology is false.
So, what does this mean? What would it look like to practice a lifestyle of acceptance free of condemnation, judgement, and criticism? Firstly, it means that you would accept yourself! No more criticizing, condemning, and judging yourself. You would actually have to accept your whole self, good or otherwise, without condemnation. It’s a divine command! How can you love your neighbor as you love yourself if you don’t really like who you are? You can’t!
Let me give you an example. I know a woman who seems to like to insult me but in a veiled manner. Whenever I see her, she almost always says something about my appearance. One day, I was wearing a green jacket. She pointed it out. “Wow, what color green is that? I don’t think I would ever buy a jacket in that color. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it looks nice on you, but I would never wear that color. And the sleeve length? I don’t think I would buy a jacket with such short sleeves! I would worry that I looked bad. And, the waist is so high! Being tall, I am always concerned about my waist. I mean, it looks fine on YOU, but I just don’t think I could ever wear something like that.”
I just stood there and listened to her take my jacket and my taste in clothing apart. I knew what she was doing. She has a habit of doing this. Once she was done with her fashion diatribe, I corrected her, “The sleeve length is actually 3/4 length which is appropriate for people with long arms. You don’t have to worry at all about length, and the waist is called an empire waist so, in this case, you don’t have to be concerned about where the waist on the jacket will fall on your body. It’s supposed to be high. That’s how the jacket is tailored. It’s a good jacket for taller people with longer arms.” We needn’t attempt to empower ourselves by being cruel in these situations, but we don’t need to be victims either.
She didn’t say anything after that except that she had to get in the last word, “Well, I wouldn’t wear anything like that…not that there’s anything wrong with it.”
This interaction had nothing to do with me. It’s entirely about her own insecurities. Because she is insecure, she is constantly assessing other women who perhaps take risks in the fashion department, not that my jacket was cutting the edge of modernity. Because she was judging herself, criticizing her own choices firstly, she was destined to do the same to others. Her lack of love and gentleness towards herself caused her to feel defensive in the presence of other women who possessed qualities that she wanted. So, she insulted and criticized those women rather than celebrated them. In the end, it starts with how we accept and love ourselves. We cannot practice a lifestyle of acceptance if we don’t accept ourselves. We cannot love our neighbors as ourselves if we don’t love ourselves first. To deny yourself means to deny your self-hatred. It means that we deny ourselves the masochistic pleasure of criticizing and judging ourselves. It means that we take the initiative and step into the process of reconciling our view of ourselves with God’s view of who we are.
What might that view be? Who does God say that you are? Well, there is one thing that you can be absolutely certain of. No matter what the specifics are, whoever you are, God’s view of you will be astonishing. It won’t be characterized by criticisms, judgments, or belittling declarations about how you look, what you did that one time, or those annoying habits that you just can’t seem to break. That’s how humans operate. That is nothing like God. God takes great pleasure in HImself, and, since we are made in His image, He would have to take great pleasure in us.
Truly, we are accepted. Once we begin to practice internalizing this, we can then begin to practice accepting others. Our filter will change, and we will no longer find any appeal in judgment, criticism, or condemnation. Why? Because it is so much more exhilarating to see what could be than what used to be or even what is.
So, today, know this–you are accepted completely for who you are. Right now. In this moment. So, be kind to yourself. Why? Because God is kind to you whether that has ever been your experience of God or not. May that begin to become your reality today.