It seems incredibly risky to write thoughts and share opinions on things. We don't always agree. So in an effort to not alienate others, I keep my thoughts to myself. But not saying what I think--I end up feeling alone anyway.
Recently, I attended a Quaker meeting for the second time. A woman said she was reading "Far From the Tree", a book about children who are different in some way. (I just looked and the book is written by Andrew Solomon. I'm familiar with his book, "The NoonDay Demon", about depression--written from both personal experience and scientific perspective.)
I haven't read the book, but when this woman spoke about it, tears came to my eyes. I was moved because she said that a theme of the book is how loving those who are different, and accepting them. This teaches us about loving anyone who is different.
A quote I read recently comes to mind: “The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island
These words are challenging to me. They teach me that in order to love my life, I must accept it as it is. In order to love people in my life, I must let them be who they are. (It would be silly not to let people be who they were--am I capable of re-creating them in a different form?)
In order to love myself, I must accept myself as I am now. (Now re-creating myself in a different form is definitely something I've dreamed of, almost every day.)
In cases where it would seem clear that a person needs to change, even in that case, there is no opportunity for positive change without beginning at acceptance.
In a situation where shame over my shortcomings is so great that must deny them--I cannot begin the work of looking at myself honestly and choosing a different way of life.
The context in which healing and transformation can begin is a circle of acceptance. A person who has made what we may call mistakes is less in need of shame and more in need of open-eyed truth surrounding him. If we cannot openly speak our truth, how can we progress to growth and healing?
Surrounding a wounded person with judgement and hostility will most likely result in their folding inward into silence and shame. They will go away, if not physically then emotionally. They will hide from their truth.
We recently watched the documentary film "Stevie" (2002). It's a moving account of a boy who was emotionally rejected by his mother. I suspect she rejected him because she became pregnant with him by a man who was not her husband, a man who she later discovered was married to someone else.
In this film she reveals that she has never told Stevie who his real father was. She marries another man, and has a second child afterwards. It seems that she tries to make her mistake disappear, and to start over, but there's Stevie.
His story is heartbreaking. It's the perfect example of what happens when a child is not accepted. The story confirms my theory that what parents do to their children is what they are doing to themselves. This woman couldn't accept herself and her mistake. In rejecting herself, she rejected her child as well.
I challenge myself to tender acceptance of myself, with all my embarrassing mistakes and quirks. I challenge myself to tender acceptance of those around me.