Does unconditional acceptance also mean accepting abuse?

 ‘Acceptance is the answer to everything’ is a common cliche in spiritual circles. ‘Do not resist life’, ‘Resistance is ego’, ‘Flow with life’

While it is true, there are some obvious doubts. Is there something like too much acceptance?

What if someone is an abusive relationship? Should she practice ‘acceptance’ and suffer? But isn’t acceptance supposed to ease suffering? Maybe if she is still suffering, she is doing acceptance wrong? Or is she simply deluding herself and enabling abusive behavior? Is she just being a doormat?

Confusion happens when there is a gap in understanding. 

So let us understand what acceptance really is. This post on the Puzzle of Acceptance might help more.

Acceptance is often confused with approval. With ‘positive judgement’. Which is still judgement. 

In this context, accepting abusive behavior would mean saying ‘Abusing is OK’. Which is obviously incorrect. 

Then what is acceptance?

Acceptance is not making a judgement, or an opinion, or a conclusion. 

It is simply a recognition. A recognition of what is

A recognition of things that you cannot not accept. 

There is nothing to do. Only to recognize. 

But that’s not where the challenge is. The challenge is in recognizing everything

If our recognition is partial, then our response will be partial. It is like trying to shoot an arrow while wearing broken glasses. And wondering why the arrow won’t hit the target. 

Let us take abusive behavior. 

Now your question is: “Should this abuse be accepted?”

What it actually means is: “Should I accept and stay, or reject and leave? What is right?” Basically it is a run-of-the-mill right/wrong question. Nothing to do with acceptance. 

So let us see again: “Should this abuse be accepted?”

But is that all there is? What else is present that is not getting recognized?

Someone is abusing you…or doing what you think is abusive or hurting(Others might not perceive it as abuse) So you have labelled the other person’s behavior as ‘abuse’. But what is emerging in your experience is ‘hurt’. ‘Pain’. Are you recognizing the pain?

You experience ‘anger’. Are you recognizing the anger?

You experience judgmental thoughts ‘Anger is bad’. ‘Spiritual people don’t get angry’. ‘Is this what your meditation has taught you?’ Are you recognizing the judgements?

You experience scary thoughts ‘Anger will make me look like a normal person’, ‘What will that do to our relationship?’, ‘Good people never leave’. 

Are you recognizing the fear?

Guilt emerges. “How could I think about leaving?”, “Relationships are about commitment? How can I be so selfish?!!”

Are you recognizing the guilt? The shame?

“What will happen to my children? Is it good for them to live in such an environment?”

Are you recognizing the love?

“I have no clue what to do. I want to be a great human being. But I cannot take this hurt either!!! I am afraid to leave. I am afraid to stay!” 

Are you recognizing the anxiety?

Now you try to suppress the guilt. “Forget it!! I am just awareness!! Awareness that is eternal. Awareness that cannot be hurt!!” 

Are you recognizing the denial?

So you just recognized the ‘abuse’. Something that is just a label that does not emerge in your experience. 
You judged that you should accept whatever someone does. You assumed that should lead to peace, calm, freedom. 
But remember? Acceptance is not about what you think should be. It is about recognizing what is
What you think should be is peace, calm, freedom, awareness, oneness.
But what is arising right now are these expectations…and the pain, hurt, anger, judgments, fear, guilt, love, anxiety, denial. Which are all unrecognized. 
And with this incomplete vision, confusing your expectations for reality, you ask ‘Should I accept abuse?’

So the problem is not over-acceptance, but incomplete acceptance!

A better response would be to recognize what is. What has already emerged. A situation in which there is pain, hurt, anger, judgments, fear, guilt, love, anxiety, denial. None of which you can control. 

With this complete vision, now you ask the question: “How do I want to choose to respond?”

Maybe your response is to honor the love for the kids and suffer through the hurt. Maybe it is to honor the love for the kids and face the consequences of survival hardships…guilt. Maybe it is to honor your fear, and face the consequences of staying on…until you are ready to move through your fear.

Whatever your choice is, seeing the situation completely without trying to resist anything creates the possibility that you are at peace with your choice. 

A choice you can accept. Own. Take responsibility for. 

This ownership allows you to create the perseverance needed to stay, or the assertiveness to ask for what you want, or the courage to leave. To manifest whichever quality is needed to exercise your choice.

This does not mean the choice is easy. But it does become clear. 

Is that choice ‘good’? Bad? Right? Wrong? Who knows. And it does not matter. It’s just a judgement anyway. 

But whatever the choice is – it is right for your situation. 

1 Comment

  1. Good read. Very contemporary also.

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