I love a good quote. Maybe it’s the book nerd in me, but a well crafted, thought provoking snippet of insight and language, tied up in a tidy presentation, satisfies some deeper part of myself.
I read more slowly than I used to because of this. Oftentimes, I’ll be reading a book, or a blog post by someone else, or a sermon – anything really, and a quote will stand out to me and I’ll just have to stop there. Meditate on it. Examine it. Explore it.
I don’t always have to agree with the quote itself. Sometimes it stirs up some original thoughts, insights, or feelings of my own. Exploration of those things is good for the soul.
I read a quote this morning that did just that, so indulge me, won’t you?
“You don’t have to accept things you are not okay with.”
A simple selection of words, but there is so much truth here, though not necessarily at first glance.
When I first read this, my thoughts went immediately to how it’s up to us to make the life we want for ourselves. Nothing frustrates me more than to hear someone complain about a problem that they could do something about. We don’t often give ourselves enough credit for being able to change things about our lives. We become the victims of what has happened to us instead of the authors of what we want to be. In that way, no, you don’t have to just accept things that you are not okay with.
But the other truth is this: Part of becoming an adult is accepting the things that you cannot change. I am not okay with my poor eyesight. Yes, I can get contacts, glasses, even have laser surgery, but my eyesight will never be perfect without correction of some kind. I have to accept that. Just a simple example.
I am not okay with a lot of things about life. By nature, I’m a pretty unsatisfied person, always ready for the next thing, unable to cling to true contentment for very long. It’s a curse, one that I’m working on. Because I think it’s the proverbial thorn in my flesh that I have to live with and figure out. I believe acceptance is going to be the key to my own deliverance.
That’s the part of this quote that I guess was the most poignant for me: I don’t have to accept anything. I can fight internally against things beyond my control or I can accept certain things as they are.
It’s all about balance, you see. Recognizing what you can do something about and doing those things, and finding peace in the acceptance of things beyond your control.
It’s easier said than done, of course.
I have been the first to repeatedly beat my head against the brick wall of something that will not be changed, no matter how much I care, or how hard I try.
One of the things that people in Christian circles often tell you to do when you are faced with a problem is to pray. But where as I used to pray, thinking it was a way to get God to listen to me and do what I wanted and then be frustrated when He didn’t, I have now learned to pray so that I might be changed. Pray that I would be given not only peace about situations, but the wisdom and insight to see it through a bigger, spiritual lens than what I can with my smaller, limited physical and mental lenses.
True change has to start from the inside out. That’s true in Christianity and that’s true in Psychology as well. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most practical and successful of all psychology practices.
“A type of psychotherapy in which negative patterns of thought about the self and the world are challenged in order to alter unwanted behavior patterns or treat mood disorders such as depression.”
This definition reminds me of the statement by Descartes, “I think, therefore I am.”
To change who we are, how we are, we have to change the way we think. And that is the hardest battle most of us will ever fight, because it is within ourselves.
Maybe the battle is in the thinking, the acceptance of those things and people in our lives over which we have no control. Maybe the battle is in the doing what we know we need to do to change the things we are not okay with. Maybe it’s a little bit of both.
For years, I have been more of an action-driven person. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But how I think is just as, if not more, important than taking action. Because actions begin with thoughts. Leading back to whether or not we can and/or should accept a certain thing in our life that we are not okay with.
Sounds like an exhausting cycle doesn’t it? Because it is. True change, whether internal or external is work. And most people don’t want to do the work. Some days, I don’t want to do the work. And on those days, I am grateful for a Higher Power, and a pre-written prayer that I can pray when my heart, soul, mind, and body are exhausted:
“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.