The Challenge of Acceptance and Faith
Article ID: 14187
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: October 3rd. 2010
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“Some people confuse acceptance with apathy, but there's all the difference in the world. Apathy fails to distinguish between what can and what cannot be helped; acceptance makes that distinction. Apathy paralyzes the will-to-action; acceptance frees it by relieving it of impossible burdens” -Arthur Gordon
Just beyond the horizon of our need to control and cajole reality into forms most suitable to our preferences we find ever-present, like some dark and unwelcome visitor, the unyielding reality that all things must end. Whether in the absolute finality of our own death or in the little deaths reflected in the impermanence of circumstance we must all, in our own time, make peace with endings. We must, for our own sake, come to accept such transitions as a necessary aspect of life.
In youth we don't consider the reality of endings, for us the sun will shine forever, the rose, in perpetual bloom, will always be fragrant and the love we feel will be eternal and we, immortal. We haven't yet entered into the fullness of life, haven't tasted its full measure but instead have only sipped the sweet foam at its head.
It is only as we mature that we drink fully of life's cup, experiencing the many flavors of its entire offering. Beneath the sweetness of our first sips, we encounter the sweet and the bitter in ratio according to our cup and no others'. For some, tragically, the sweetness of life is drowned early on in a depth and bitterness so much so that its sweetness is only the vaguest memory or not at all. For others, those many would consider blessed or lucky, the sweetness of life seems to be a perpetual undertone, a flavor that can be clearly enjoyed throughout life until the draught is done and the cup finally put down.
It is most common in our culture of happily ever after that many perceive endings as failures. According to this myth, anything that does not last forever (a fundamental impossibility) is seen, not as having value in and of itself, but instead as a total loss. As if life were a simplistic spreadsheet in which all events and circumstances can be broken down into wins and losses. Besides the skewed and unrealistic perspective that this imposes upon the truth of the human condition, this myth inflicts deep psychic scars upon those who embrace it. For those who embrace the myth of happily ever after, the toll is high in regards to a damaged sense of self-esteem, a general sense of being a failure, an ever-increasing cynicism and ultimately a loss of hope that leads to a sense of fatalistic resignation regarding the nature of life itself.
The belief in happily ever after is not, in and of itself, destructive so long as it is seen as one potential amongst myriad other potentials. It is when happily ever after becomes a necessity or even an entitlement, at the outset of any endeavor, that it becomes a tremendous source of suffering.
What inspired me to look at this subject was a recent event in which a friend (who we'll call Amy) found herself suddenly single after a long and meaningful relationship of over six years. I had been, over the course of years, witness to the cumulative history of conflict that led to her final and absolute separation from her significant other. I saw the frustration and pain inflicted one upon the other until there was nothing left of the relationship that could be saved. Ironically, though it is often a couple's history that helps them to work it out and salvage the relationship, sometimes there is just too much history to allow things to ever be made new. Such was the circumstances of Amy's relationship.
Sometimes Humpty Dumpty cannot be put back together again.
Naturally Amy's grief came in stages, first with an honest sorrow, next a furious assigning of blame, then the dawning of a clear and mature assessment of her own level of responsibility in the relationship's ending, followed finally some time later by an acceptance of things being as they are. In other words, Amy handled the ending of her relationship as most do. However, there lingered within her a subtle sense of failure. It was as if her relationship of over six years, all she had shared, all she had given, and all she had felt was somehow made invalid by the very fact that it hadn't culminated in a happily ever after.
Beyond destructive self-recrimination and the haunting sense of personal failure that comes from the dashed expectation of happily ever after, beyond the pain and the shame of "What's wrong with me?" there exists a state of mind that transcends finding fault and shifts one's focus above the ultimately pointless mathematics of calculating blame, to instead focus upon what can be taken from the ending so as to support a new beginning. To get to this place we (Amy and indeed all of us) need to change the lens through which we view the sometimes painful passages of our lives.
To get to this place we need to disabuse ourselves of the belief that endings are failures. We must come to a place of accepting that the magick of life is not contained in the attainment of some goal whose specific criteria of accomplishment must be met before we can consider an endeavor a success. We must accept that if we are to experience the joy of living, that joy is to be found in doing for the sake of doing.
In love we must love for the sake of that love. In giving we give for the sake of giving. In offering compassion, we must do so for the sake of that compassion. We must offer friendship for the sake of friendship. If we choose to do these (and countless other) things for any reason other than these clean motivations we are setting ourselves up for tremendous disappointment.
Ultimately, the disappointment we will experience is rooted in the fact that if we do what we do for the sake of some future reward we will often discover, rather quickly, that we are guaranteed no reward or reciprocity for our efforts.
Sometimes the brass ring is none other than horse you are riding on.
I'm not writing from a Pollyanna perspective attempting to convince you that you will always welcome painful experiences with open arms, that no positively dreadful circumstance will ever come along and utterly upend your new expanded perspective on life's challenges. No, but what I would like you to do, starting now, in this very opportune moment is to begin looking at life challenges as teachable moments. Start being mindful of your motivations particularly in regards to your intimacies. Decide to truly be in the moment, motivated out of love as opposed to the desire for future gain. Being mindful in this manner takes practice because we are often rather ignorant of our motivations. However with time and a commitment to real self-honesty, mindfulness gets both rather easy and rather illuminating.
Seek the grace that can be gained, not by a fatalistic resigned acceptance of life's pains, but through the fully conscious embracing of life as it is, warts and all. Acknowledge that life is as it is for all of us. Life has always contained triumph and tragedy, beauty and ugliness, compassion and cruelty, love and hate, these realities are non-negotiable for all beings. So, by necessity, if there is a Divine Consciousness that underlies all of this, then life is meant to be exactly as it is.
This realization, this understanding, is the heart of faith.
As a Wiccan I have the humility to admit that I cannot comprehend the "whys" of life's most terrible aspects though I have faith that all things rest within the warp and woof of Divine Will. My personal understanding is the challenging aspects of life form a kind of crucible of the soul whereby we may learn more quickly and more deeply the lessons of spirit in a manner unavailable to us any other way. In the crucible of the soul, suffering may bring forth compassion, loss may bring forth a deeper sense of valuing, and life's most painful moments may cause us to seek depth and meaning.
That search is the heart of all spirituality and the grace it provides is its fruit.
Copyright: 2010 Christopher DeGraffenreid.
Location: Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
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