Acceptance and tolerance and forgiveness, those are life-altering lessons. ~Jessica Lange
One of the hardest things in life is learning to get along with others and to accept others for who they are and not for whom we want them to be, sound familiar? Since we cannot control others, we can only focus on ourselves and our actions. As humans, we naturally want to be liked, accepted and feel like we belong.
We cannot survive in a world where we live solo. We meet others in almost everything we do starting from; family, elementary school, work, professional services, friendships and even walking down the street. Do you ever feel like you’re hitting a brick wall by trying to please people or trying to live up to others expectations just so you feel like you are liked? The opposite is also true; we don’t readily accept others unless they mirror us and the qualities we find valuable. If you thought about it, I’m sure you could think of a time in your life when you were on both sides of the fence of acceptance; when you tried so hard to be accepted by others but got rejected. The other side of the fence; when someone tried to be accepted by you but you wrote them off because they didn’t really fit into your mold? We are all guilty of it. We generally do it unknowingly and sometimes knowingly but the key is, when it comes to acceptance, we tend to only accept others when they fit into our way of thinking.
My old boss was a great example of not being accepting. She didn’t accept anyone that was not like her. She had her own set of criteria and couldn’t accept anything outside of what she viewed as acceptable. She managed and led by a fear driven model of her own insecurities. She was not an encouraging person and judged everything that was not done precisely to her accepted standard. She presumed that anyone on our team that did not hold the same set of strengths that she acquired in life; therefore, was not someone she would accept. What she failed to see was that others not having the same strengths as her were a benefit to the team. Each of us had different strengths which would have made for a well-balanced team. If the team only held her strengths then we wouldn’t be very productive as a group, as it turned out due to her leadership. We all basically shut down due to the unhealthy and negative environment she created. She tried to fit us all into her mold and if we didn’t or failed to deliver in her way, she would get frustrated, angry, upset and carry around resentment toward us. She didn’t realize though, that she was the culprit creating this environment. She strived so hard to be liked by everyone but at the same time, she did not accept anyone. It was a very difficult situation. She set herself up for failure as a manager by only looking at what served her interests. We cannot change anyone to fit within our model of thinking and criteria that only works for us. We can only be ourselves and allow who we are to influence others for the positive (hopefully). Unfortunately, most of the time the negative is what influences us and therefore causes us resentment and discouragement.
The best way to help people become better isn’t by judgment or criticism because they are not exactly like us; the best way is to encourage people and compliment their strengths. Focusing on someone’s weakness (as we perceive it) will only eat away at us and cause us frustration, so focusing on someone’s strengths is better. We all have our own unique strengths for a reason. If God wanted us to all be the same then we would have been created that way from the beginning of time. Only thinking on our terms is not what is necessarily best for others, as in my old boss’s case and in general. My old boss did not utilize a strong team because she was self-minded and could not see a bigger picture outside of herself and her thoughts. She rewarded those based on pleasing her which created conditioning that whatever our individual strengths really were we should forget them and only do things her way. She felt she was respected and accepted just because she was the “boss.” However, what she failed to see was that no one respected her and no one accepted her either. We all just tried to “please” her to get through the day so we wouldn’t have to deal with her anger (showing non-acceptance). In the process, we were also wrong for just trying to please her. She wouldn’t let anyone be who they really were or let them unleash their true strengths to create a more productive and encouraged team.
In all situations, we tend to size up the other person and decide to accept them based on what we want them to be like. If they please us by acting in accordance to our view of what is “acceptable” then it becomes comfortable, familiar and safe. Our actions always show our disapproval when others do not live up to our expectations and standards. Deep down that’s what we all want is others to be just like us so we can give ourselves permission to accept them without judgment. In reality, we have judged them from day one, deciding if the other person fits into our mold.
However, despite wanting others to be like us, we are naturally drawn to others with strengths different from our own. In other words, opposites attract! We are attracted to people who are different from us but we only like the good qualities (our perception of good) of others but discredit the bad ones (our perception of bad). What if we just accepted the people in our life for whatever qualities they had, even if less than ours? If that were the case, we wouldn’t live frustrated by the differences of others. We expect people to be a certain way and when they fail to deliver that expectation, we get disappointed and discouraged and tend to not accept them. I am of the belief we aren’t supposed to change everyone, our job is to love people and let them be who God created them to be and vice-versa. However, I didn’t necessarily feel that way with my old boss while going through the situation, unfortunately, and I wish I had. I know that’s easier said than done many times. However, that is one special, unique reason we are made to be who we are. Don’t get me wrong, as in the example above with my old boss, I did not accept her either. Acceptance is a two-way street. However, I have learned from that experience and I realize now that had I accepted her for being that way, I would have made my life easier at work instead of the needless suffering I put myself through to try to please her.
People are put in our life with different strengths for a reason. Approval, love, encouragement and acceptance are what we should carry around and not condemn others because we feel they are less than us. We waste so much time and energy trying to make others like us, why? God is the one that puts talent, creativity and strength in people, not us.
I have learned and been much happier in my life seeing others for their talents and strengths, instead of condemning them for what I perceive as their weakness. We are not always going to mesh well with everyone, but I am a firm believer that everyone enters our life for the benefit of our growth. Turning the perceived “differences” around into learning lessons is a healthy way to learn to accept others for who they are and not for whom we want them to be. We don’t necessarily like everyone that comes our way for many reasons but I hope that with this post, the people in your life that you are not accepting, you will remember to allow them room to not be perfect and to just feel blessed to know them for whatever reason they are in your life.
One thing to consider when you are dealing with difficult people or those that are different from us: as humans we all respond better to praise instead of criticism. If we start honoring and respecting people for who they are and start looking for their strengths instead, it will bring you greater inner peace and it will raise them higher. People do better when we honor and accept them for their strengths. We all have great influence into each others lives by how we respond and treat each other. We have to remember the world is certainly greater than ourselves and our standards are not the worlds. We are allowed to have our standards but in order for us to feel more at peace and create a better environment, we need to start focusing on the good of others. In the case of my old boss, I thank her for her service in my life for teaching me this valuable lesson. I wish you acceptance, encouragement, praise, recognition and love.