Accepting oneself includes accepting setbacks and tragedies that are inevitable facts of life. I have a friend who became an oncologist. As we talked recently, we agreed that our work has much in common.
I oversee a network of children’s homes that try to salvage wounded lives. He attempts to salvage whatever time can be gained from a disease that, despite modern medical advance, sometimes represents a death sentence.
“I see two kinds of people in my office,” this doctor told me. “Those who are embittered and destroyed by illness and those who are ennobled by it. Some people become angry when they learn they are going to die. They lash out at God and everybody around them. Everything centers on them and what is happening to them.
“Others are the opposite. They get in touch with the ground of their beliefs, with some deep faith inside of themselves. They become peaceful centers of radiant hope and goodness. They become more loving and considerate of others. They submit themselves to the will of God.”
Prominent Swiss physician and psychiatrist Paul Tournier gave me great insight on how accepting oneself can spell the difference between a victorious life and one lived in shallow misery. In The Meaning of Persons, he told a story of two patients:
The first was a highly successful politician whose appeal and charisma had carried him to a string of victories at the ballot box. Though outwardly full of charm and confidence, his private actions revealed a much different nature. He confessed feeling so timid that his hands shook violently whenever he shared a cup of tea with a small group of friends.
The second patient was a forty-year-old man who felt so insecure that his mother accompanied him to the office. Nervous and fidgety, he sat on the edge of his chair throughout their initial interview. However, over time, doctor and patient developed a basic trust. To his surprise, Dr. Tournier discovered the soul of an adventurer. Though the man dreamed of heroism, daring deeds, and voyages to distant lands, he was ineffectual. Because he had not accepted himself and embraced the idea of taking action to realize those dreams, he remained tied to his mother by an invisible cord.
Accepting self means we not only achieve our dreams, but also help others reach theirs. We do this not by writing a bestselling book, becoming a famed motivational speaker, or selling a million videos on “the successful life.” No, we inspire others to greatness simply by seeing them as people of worth and value. Life runs at its best when people treat each other with honor and respect. Poor relationships with others injure both parties’ feelings. It dims all hopes in businesses, friendships, cooperative ventures, and families.
The one who treats people poorly suffers in others ways. A man or woman constantly at odds with others reaps a harvest of loneliness, or at best a grudging acceptance. The pain may simply be felt inside, with the individual ill at ease with self. By hurting others, such people hurt themselves. Do other people speak unkindly, make dumb moves, and fail in their own endeavors? Sure. But so do you. Love means making allowances for others’ shortcomings, just as they make allowances for ours.
To complete this picture of acceptance, I offer the word comfort. Be comfortable with your body, your spirit and with others.
Be comfortable with your body.
Do you find yourself frequently wishing your body was a different type, size, shape, or color?
To be at peace with your body requires a “faith-full” acceptance of your body type. Most people cannot be supremely shapely or muscular. Yet, most of us can develop the awareness that our body is not something to fight, but to accept and value. Because of its intricate nature and creation, it is a thing of beauty. Comfort involves acceptance.
Be comfortable with your spirit.
Many dwell on our incompleteness, sinfulness and faults. That is self-defeating behavior. You will never know the joy God intended for you to have if you stay mired in the quicksand of negative, defeatist thinking. Sure, periodically we all struggle with fears and anxieties, but we must remember each of us came into the world with the possibility of wholeness and completeness. While that is a lifelong quest, we can take comfort in knowing that we are not alone in our journey. The One who was with us in the beginning will be with us to the end.
Be comfortable with others.
This is the fruit of the previous pair of comforts. The person at comfort with his or her body and spirit has no compulsion to lash out at others. Those who are comfortable with their body and spirit no longer need to project their discomfort onto the world or onto others. They no longer need to hate, discriminate, or hurt others.
Acceptance = Comfort.
There is a right way to order our lives so they are not constantly tangled and adrift, but moving forward with shape and aim. Our level of comfort plays a huge part in how we view the world and live in it. We are not totally mature unless we know the comfort for which we have been created and intended.
Michael C. Blackwell leads the ministry with vigor and enthusiasm. He has served as president of Baptist Children’s Homes since 1983 and marks his 35th anniversary this year