Acceptance Is Not Tolerance

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When we believe there is something flawed about us and that those flaws need to be fixed, then our ideas about how things ought to be don’t match how they really are. This is the root of suffering.

You might read this and begin to think that it means you should simply learn to accept your flaws and stop trying to fix them. You would be wrong.

What I’m telling you is that you were never flawed to begin with. It is your belief that you are a flawed human being – our own insecurities – which creates behaviors that would be deemed undesirable.

I once had this conversation with a friend (you know who you are):

“Is it better to accept your flaws rather than to look whats wrong with you?”

“Why do you think that something that is “wrong” to begin with?

“Oh, I see – I have to change my way of looking at things.”

If you still believe the thing that you are accepting is wrong, then you are not accepting it. You are tolerating it. Tolerance is not acceptance. 

Acceptance is about accepting yourself, just as you REALLY are, instead of holding the belief that there is something inherently flawed about you. It’s not about tolerating your flaws and accepting your insecurities, it’s not about ignoring them, it’s not about convincing yourself that really nasty personality traits are somehow good –  it’s about coming to the understanding that there was never anything wrong with you to begin with and eliminating the insecurity.

The deeply ingrained beliefs that we are defective are our own insecurities which we have been conditioned to believe through experience and society from the time we were born.

That is what it is, at the most basic level, but then it goes up from there.

You can begin to accept others as they are, you can begin to accept situations as they are (because the root of suffering is when the reality of a situation is not how you think it ought to be).

Acceptance can go a long way to help both people and the world heal.

But I also find that many people don’t quite understand the subtlety of it, and when they apply it to the world around them – say for example, with world situations… starvation, hunger, ware – they think acceptance means that we should be complacent with these things.

I think this is because they are missing the fundamental connection between acceptance of self, and not making the realization as to how collective self-acceptance would actually eliminate all of those other problems. Because all external conflict is a reflection of internal conflict.

But they tend to look at the world from the outside in, rather than the inside out.

If I have to be specific, I would say that the cause of this type of person’s suffering is the inability to change the world they see around them. They see all of this suffering and the problems are so big, and they want to save everyone and they can’t possibly do so (once again – when how a situation actually is does not match how you think it ought to be = suffering). So in this sense, acceptance means that you need to accept the fact that you cannot save the world.

That doesn’t mean that you ignore the suffering of others (as many people often immediately accuse me of when I talk about this concept), but rather come to an understanding of how small actions, on a collective level, are what will change the world and that those small actions begin with what is inside of you.



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