Finding Peace through Accepting Limits
There is a popular lie going around today that we need to always have "positive" thoughts to guarantee a positive fate for ourselves. The people teaching that are sadly taking away emotional and mental parts of us that are just as important as "happy" thoughts and feelings (watch the movie Inside Out if you don't believe me).
First of all take the pressure off yourself - your thoughts and feelings don't determine whether the stoplight turns green or whether you get a flat tire on the way to an important meeting. Life just happens and the only thing you need to control is your responses to it. This is where accepting our limitations and circumstances comes in.
I (Laura) wasn't always the sick, weak individual I am now. As a kid and in my teens, I was strong, athletic, active, and ambitious. Then in my late teens and early 20's I got sick and became progressively worse. I became anxious, fatigued, and the pain and discomfort became almost constant companions. I fought hard to get better, but doctor's couldn't figure out what was going on. Emotionally, I fought my new normal. I didn't like it and it wasn't how life was supposed to be. But when answers didn't come, I came to a point where I had to make a choice. Would I choose to be happy in my current circumstances or would I allow unhappiness to reign? Would I choose to trust God through the heartache or would I spend my time feeling sorry for myself?
I chose trusting God and joy, but it wasn't easy and I even had people resist my choice. One person told me that accepting my illness meant I was "claiming" it and not trusting God to heal me. Society told me that accepting my illness meant I wasn't having a "positive" attitude. The choice of acceptance may be misunderstood, but, oh, the peace it brings. I think the problem is that people don't truly understand what acceptance means.
The Meaning of Acceptance
Acceptance isn't the resignation of saying, "Oh well. I guess I'll just accept it and give up." Acceptance isn't recognizing your circumstances and sitting around pouting about it. When ill, acceptance isn't saying, "It's fine that I'm sick; I won't try to get better." No, that's not acceptance at all.
Acceptance is the middle ground between giving up and an out of balance positive attitude which is really just denial. True acceptance is seeing things as they really are (even if that means acknowledging that things aren't good) so that you can face and address what is happening.
Why This Helps
We all know that giving up and feeling sorry for ourselves doesn't help, but it's hard to recognize the lie behind the "be positive" movement. Having a positive attitude is a good thing and something we should all work towards, but when you take positivity too far it becomes denial and can actually hurt us. For example, someone told me once that if I believe I can do a cartwheel (positive attitude) then it will come true (result of positive attitude). Now, this may work if you are talking to a high level athlete, but what would the result be for me? If I ignore (don't accept my limitations) my health issues and attempt a cartwheel because I have a positive attitude, I could end up hurting myself because of my condition. Accepting the fact that cartwheels aren't something I should do may be sad, but it also protects my body so I can do other things I do enjoy. That is a true positive attitude and one that won't harm us.
Not being honest with ourselves about our limitations also causes us to ignore the emotions of sorrow, grief, etc. that come with hardship. We instead stuff these emotions down inside where they are left to fester. Telling people they shouldn't recognize the reality they are having to face can actually cause mental health issues because people need the opportunity to grieve the hard times they are going through. They can only do this, however, when they are first allowed to accept what is happening to them. We can't work toward healing or restoration if we haven't first accepted the journey we are facing. There is a middle ground of accepting your circumstances yet moving forward at the same time for in accepting we find the peace and strength to keep going!
Tell us what you think? When you are struggling to accept your situation what has helped you?