The wonder of Self-Acceptance

We've been talking in this space the last three weeks about one of the most important things in life: being friends. I want to reprint that commentary here, in case some of you missed it, so that as I go on into Part 4 of this observation, you will not have to wonder what was said in Parts 1, 2 and 3.

So here are the first three parts again, with the newest commentary continuing at the bottom of this reprint... I hope and trust that your life has been wonderful this week. Let me say that the important thing is to be friends.

Be friends with everybody.

Be friends with your spouse. Be friends with your children. Be friends with your relatives. Be friends with your neighbors and your fellow workers and your acquaintances. And yes, even be friends with your enemies.

Just...be friends.

One of the most stinging criticisms I ever received was when someone to whom I was once married, and who I truly and dearly loved, once said to me: "You treat your friends better than you treat me."

I never, ever forgot that. Because I knew it was true. It is absolutely, stunningly true that I had more tolerance for, more patience with, more leniency regarding my friends' behaviors than I did with the person with whom I was sharing my life.

I said things to my life partner that I would never say to a friend. I criticized my life partner for things that I would simply "let go" with a friend. I noticed things with my life partner that I would overlook with a friend. And I let things bother me---annoy me, actually---that my life partner did that wouldn't even faze me if a friend did the exact same thing.

What is this about?, I began to wonder. Why do we so often treat those closest to us as if they were not "close" to us at all? Is it because we know them better than we know our friends, spending more time with them day in and day out as we do? Could it really be true that "familiarity breeds contempt"?

No, no...say it isn't so! Shouldn't familiarity breed compassion, understanding, patience, tolerance, acceptance, and deeper and deeper love? Shouldn't intimate relationship be the place of greatest safety, not of the least?

When I was a small child (which was very, very long ago) there was a song that was popular. Even then it was an Oldie But Goodie, and we had an old phonograph record of it sung by the Mills Brothers that I used to play on the family Victrola (Ha! Does anyone even know who or what I am talking about here---???)

The some was called, You Always Hurt the One You Love. And the lyrics went something like this...if I can remember them now...

You always hurt the one you love
The one you shouldn't hurt at all
You always take the sweetest rose
And crush it `til the petals fall

You always break the kindest heart
With a hasty word you can't recall
So if I broke your heart last night
It's because I love you most of all.

The irony of that song sticks with me to this very day. I have come to deeply regret (and to beg them and the heavens forgiveness for) the many ways that I have treated beloved others who have been close to me, and to realize that one of the greatest gifts we can give to a loved one is friendship. Pure and simple friendship. Just treat them like a Friend. Like we would treat someone we are afraid of losing.

So yes, be friends with your spouse. Be friends with your children. Be friends with your relatives. Be friends with your neighbors and your fellow workers and your acquaintances. And yes, even be friends with your enemies. And most of all...be friends with yourself!

That may be the hardest thing to do of all. And so we'll take a close look at that next week.

Part 2...Okay, so now we get a chance to look at that.

It is true that being one's own best friend can be one of the hardest things in life to do. In my own experience it involved something along the lines of a three-step process, which felt like...

     1. Forgiveness
     2. Acceptance
     3. Celebration

My road to self-friendship began with self-forgiveness. It proceeded to self-acceptance, and it ended with self-celebration. Self-forgiveness was, for me, the biggest challenge.

I have done a lot of things in my life that I am not happy about. I found that I thought about these things all the time. And the more I thought about them, the worse I felt, of course. And also, the more I thought about them, the more I thought about them. Thought begets thought. Emotions give birth to more emotions of the same species. My mind was having its way with me.

I moved into heavy guilt about a lot of my past choices and behaviors. It didn't seem to do me any good to say that "I'll never do that again." What's past is past and can't be undone. So there was nothing to BE done...except live with it. Just "life with" the guilt.

Even if I "cleaned it up" by going to the people I felt I'd hurt and apologizing and offering to do whatever I could to make amends, I still couldn't off-load the guilt. I just couldn't forgive myself.

Then I had my conversation with God, and everything changed. I learned, first, that I was spotless and innocent in the eyes of The Divine. God looked upon me as I would look upon a 4-year-old child. I simply didn't know what I was doing; I simply didn't understand. Even if I really did understand, I actually didn't. I mean, I understood part of it. I grasped a little bit of it. I certainly knew the difference between Right and Wrong, but I didn't understand the Whole Story. I didn't know who I was, where I was, why I was where I was, or what I was trying to do here. No one had given me the answers to life's Four Fundamental Questions. No one had even asked me the questions. I didn't even know these questions existed.

Then, further into my conversation with God, I was told something even more shocking, more stunning to my system. "There is," God said to me, "no such thing as Right and Wrong."

As you can imagine, this overturned my whole value system (not that I was paying much attention to it anyway...). I had to start over from scratch in viewing and evaluating the choices and behaviors of my life.

Part 3 -- I have found that the Key to Forgiveness of myself is not to forgive at all, but to understand.

God has made it very clear to me that when I understand the actions of others, when I understand those others themselves (what informs them, what animates them, what motivates them), forgiveness becomes unnecessary.

All I needed to do to find self-forgiveness, then, was to understand what informed, what animated, what motivated me when I made the choices and decisions I made, and when I behaved as I did.

I am not really a "bad" person. I am not villainous, and my intention in life is not malevolent. I'm not out to "get" anybody, and I don't even seek "revenge" when people have seemed out to "get" me. I'm just an regular guy, a good person, I hope---rather ordinary in my goodness, like the rest of us. I try not to cheat, steal, lie, hurt, damage, or destroy. And yet I have cheated, stolen, lied, hurt, damaged, and destroyed. So what is that about?

It's about my not knowing what in the heck I was doing---and thinking that the only way that I could get what I felt I needed was by doing what I was doing. I was so wrong in that. I was so misinformed. Or ill-informed might be a better word.

All I wanted, in the end, was to be happy. I just wanted to be happy in my life, and I was scrambling around trying to make it happen because I didn't know how to make it happen. No one teaches us how to be happy. There's no Happiness School anywhere. There should be, but there isn't it. Maybe I'll start one. Maybe I'll create the CwG Happiness School...

So there I was, scrambling like a quarterback with a porous front line, darting around the backfield, trying not to be thrown for a Big Loss.

Sooner or later I'd find myself asking meekly, "Uh...can we run that play over again...?"

I did some things during that scramble that I am not proud of, some things that hurt other people...but now I understand why I did them. I understand that I wasn't trying to hurt anybody. And even though I knew that some things would hurt somebody, I did them not wanting them to be hurt, and just wondering in my simple mind, Why can't we all just be happy, without making someone else unhappy in the bargain?

And it's all because I didn't know how to be happy...or where to even find happiness. Or, worse yet, what happiness even was.

So if a person promises to pick you up at six, but doesn't arrive until nine-thirty, and the party you were going to is over, you might feel like you have something to forgive. But if, when they arrive at the door breathless and perspiring and shameful and embarrassed and chagrined and desperately hoping for forgiveness, they tell you that they actually started out an hour ahead of time but became hopelessly lost...suddenly, forgiveness is not the order of the day. You pop out of forgiveness almost immediately, and move into deep understanding and compassion.

And so that's what I did with myself and my own past. I was, I realized, hopelessly lost. It's worse than that. I didn't even know where I was going. Conversations with God showed me that, and I responded with compassion for myself, born of a deep understanding of why I did what I did during those years past.

God, of course, knows all of this ahead of time. I mean, without my having to explain. Like the mother who comes into the room to see the child's face distorted with shame and fear and sadness and self-recrimination as he gazes at the shattered family heirloom at his feet, God understands all that has happened---and why. God doesn't have to forgive, because understanding erases any need to forgive.

Then, on top of this comes God's remarkable revelation that in any event there is "no such thing as Right and Wrong"! So if I didn't have sufficient grounds for self-forgiveness (or the lack of any need for it) through understanding why I did all the things I did, I now had an even richer awareness of Life Itself---its purpose, its function, its process, and its construction. That is, how it is put together. And this completely eliminated the need for anything even closely resembling "forgiveness."

Step One in being friends with myself and everyone I truly loved was complete! I could "let go" of all that guilt I had been carrying around. Yet I don't want you to think that I suddenly became cavalier about my past, and all the hurt I had caused. I let go of guilt, but I did not step away from regret.

Guilt and regret are not the same thing. If you feel into them, you'll know the difference. I will never give up `regretting' some of the things I've done. To do so would be to give up my humanity. But I have given up my guilt. If nothing else, I am "not guilty by reason of insanity." It was insane of me to think that I could find happiness doing what I was doing the way I was doing it!

With guilt gone, I felt better about myself---I was almost a person I really could have a friendship with. But I still had two more steps to go before I could complete that process...

Part 4 - Being friends with your spouse, with your children, with those you dearly love, truly does begin with being friends with yourself. The process for others is the same as the process is for me. It is, as I said, a three-part process...Forgiveness, Acceptance, Celebration.

Once I had found a way to forgive myself (God showed me the way by showing me the way that God forgives me), I then simply needed to move into a place of acceptance of myself; of who I was and how I was.

This does not mean that I made an inner assessment that it was impossible for me to change. "Acceptance" should not be confused with "resignation." Indeed, the ability to accept myself opened me up for the first time to changing myself.

Prior to accepting who and how I am, I resisted change mightily, because I firmly rejected the notion that I even needed to change. Like an alcoholic or a drug addict, I refused to acknowledge that I "had a problem." There was nothing `wrong' with me, it was everybody else who had the problem.

So when others told me that I was routinely---not occasionally, but routinely---sarcastic, I told myself it was they who had the problem. They were thin-skinned, or too sensitive, or just not able to deal with the normal give-and-take of honest people being authentically themselves.

When others told me I was routinely---not occasionally, but routinely---demanding, often expecting way too much of others, and far too often talking down to people, disrespecting them, I told myself that it was they who had the problem. They were underachievers, not operating at my level, unable to cope with the requirements of Movers and Shakers---in which group I clearly had a charter membership.

When others told me that I was routinely---not occasionally, but routinely---self-centered and self-involved, I told myself it was they who had the problem. They were not equipped to deal with people as talented and gifted as I, and they had to simply understand that I was to be expected to concerned with and focused on myself to some degree, because I was the one who was going to "make it all happen," I was the person on whom the whole game was riding, I was the star of the show, and so I could be forgiven for giving in to all that pressure by paying attention to my ego. After all, everyone else was looking at me for the answers, the solutions, the outcomes.

When others told me that I was routinely---not occasionally, but routinely---too sensitive, making mountains out of molehills and predictable "going global" with the smallest thing, I told myself it was they who had the problem. They were clearly not tuned into Life at the level I was, they were immune to the insight and awareness by which I was daily assailed, they were among the lucky ones, fortunate enough to be unable to see and feel what I was required by my very nature to see and feel every moment.

When others told me that I was routinely---not occasionally, but routinely---defensive, and that to even slightly criticize me, much less actually oppose me on something, was to invite a war of words and then to be ostracized, I told myself it was they who had the problem. They were obviously unable to move through life with my level of overall brilliance, and not knowing how to deal with a person who almost always had the right answer, knew the right way, and did the right thing.

When others told me that I was....well, you get the picture. This list goes on, I can assure you. The litany of my imperfections is long and varied. Yet I rejected them for over a half century. And so, they kept showing up. For it is as CwG says: What you resist, persists.

It was only when I opened myself to the possibility that it was highly unlikely that 30 different people over 30 different years in 30 different kinds of relationships in 30 different places and situations would come up with the same impressions of me did I see that maybe the problem wasn't "over there," but maybe it was "over here," right in my own backyard.

Then the real work began, because then I had to find a way to continue to love myself in the face of continuing and now incontrovertible evidence that I had some "stuff going on" over here.

I remember once when someone said to me, in the midst of one of my tirades: "You know, this is not the most attractive part of you." I never forgot that. It was said so cleanly, so simply, without a whole lot of make-wrong or negative energy. It was just a clean, simple observation. And I got it.

Then I had to move into a place of Acceptance. I had a long talk with myself---and with God. And God made it clear to me that I was okay---nay, that I was perfect---just the way I was. Yet that did not mean that there was no room for change. If I wanted to change, if I chose to go to the next level, if I desired to recreate myself anew in the next grandest version of the greatest vision ever I held about who I am, I was invited by Life at every moment to do that.

But I was told that I could not change, could never alter, what I could not accept. I can't let go of something I refuse to notice I am holding. So I was given the enormous gift of self-acceptance. I was sarcastic too much of the time. I was demanding too much of the time. I was self-centered and defensive and sensitive and much more. I was difficult to deal with and I could speak with an edge that could cut to the quick and I was impatient with the slowness of others (at everything) and I...and I...and I...

Yup, I was all of these things. And when I finally accepted it, I got out of denial once and for all. But the way out of denial was not by embracing these characteristics as faults. It was by seeing them as my strengths, simply with volume turned up a bit too high now and then.

With the volume at a more comfortable level, my sarcasm was my quick wit, for which people loved me; my demanding nature was my ability to inspire others to outperform, for which people loved me; my self-centeredness was my self-awareness, for which people loved me; my defensiveness was my strength of conviction, for which people loved me; my sensitivity was my openness to all of life at a hundred different levels simultaneously, for which people loved me.

These were my gifts, not my faults, and my only challenge was to rein in their considerable energy, so that I could match it with the energy of the Moment Presenting. Then I would be in closer harmony with what was going on Right Here, Right Now, and people would see me as magnificent, not malevolent.

Wow! What a simple, transformative understanding! Whew. It was over. My long struggle with me was over. On the day I "got" that God accepted me, on that day I could accept me as well. I remember well the statement that opened me to this experience: If you saw you as God sees you, you would be very proud, and you would smile a lot.

Next week-Part 5: Celebration.

Love and Hugs,
Neale

Comments

kay 5th June 2010 11:21 am

Wonderful article, Neale. Thank you for sharing yourself.

Aliah 7th June 2010 10:29 am

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Aliah 7th June 2010 10:29 am

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Premlatha 7th June 2010 9:20 am

Thank you for this wonderful message.
It is very true and the wonder of it is that it works,
Self-Acceptance and Self-love is the solution to almost all human "Problems"!

Be well and Be blessed Neale!
I am grateful for all that you are and all that you do.
Premlatha

SeaAngel 8th June 2010 6:43 am

I love this article series, I have reread it at least four times. Thanks, Neale!

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Neale Donald Walsch

Neale Donald Walsch is a modern day spiritual messenger whose words continue to touch the world in profound ways. With an early interest in religion and a deeply felt connection to spirituality, Neale spent the majority of his life thriving professionally, yet searching for spiritual meaning before beginning his now famous conversation with God.

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