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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Acceptance Doesn't Equal Love

Hello, readers!!

At this point, I am sure some of you are wondering if I am in fact still alive. I am. And, I still very much love this blog. I am even working on getting things organized to make it even better!! So stay tuned for that....

In the meantime, this has been on my heart lately, and while it isn't a post about writing, it is a post I have written, so it counts, right?

As I grow older, the more people I talk to, the more I am hit with the idea that love and acceptance go together. Even when people don’t mean it that way, it comes across as “because I love you, I accept you.”

And, as I grow older and talk to more people, the more I am convinced that this is completely wrong.

I crave love more than anything else. I want people to love me. I want people to want me in their lives. I want to be special to people. When my kiddoes tell me I’m the best babysitter ever, that craving is fed and it is the most amazing feeling in the world.

But that doesn’t mean I want to be accepted. I don’t. I don’t want people to simply accept me. As much as I hate it, I want to be called out when I do something wrong. I want people to tell me how I can improve.

I want them to love me, yes. But if they truly love me, they won’t let me stay the way I am.

In our culture today we are hit with this wave of thinking that if you love me, you won’t ever disagree with me. You won’t ever express that you think I am wrong, that you know I’m wrong. You won’t ever ask me to change. I am who I am. If you don’t accept that, you don’t love me. I can push anyone away, call them judgmental, because we do not see eye to eye. And that is socially acceptable.

Acceptance is equal to love, we’re told. Challenging someone, questioning them, is equal to hate.

That is so wrong.

The people in my life who have made the biggest impact on me are the ones who loved me enough to keep me from simply staying where I was. They pushed me to be a better person. They refused to accept me. One of my closet friends in high school had a way of always knowing which questions to ask to make me admit what was wrong. She never allowed me to bottle things up because she knew that wasn’t healthy for me.

But I like bottling things up. I want nothing more than to avoid conflict and I hate talking about how I’m feeling because I do not want to burden people. But that wasn’t good enough for this friend. She pushed me. Harder than I wanted to be pushed. And she made me talk about things I didn’t want to talk about because I knew once they were voiced I would have to deal with them.

And then, guess what? She made me deal with them.

I didn’t want to. Never. That’s why I kept them hidden. But this friend loved me enough to push me past my breaking point, to challenge me. That’s not hate. That’s not judgment. I don’t think this friend is capable of hating or judging me. She is the sweetest, most loving person with the biggest heart. But if she can’t accept me, she’s just a bigot, right?

Or how about my mom? She’s not a writer. And a lot of times, I know she doesn’t understand the things I say or feel or do. So she questions them. Not out of hate or malice or a desire to hurt me, but because she does not understand. And even when I can explain it, even when I make it make sense, I still have to take a step back and examine myself. If she simply accepted me, chalked up everything she didn’t understand to me being a writer, I would never have to take a closer look at myself. I would never have to wonder if my obsession with my current story was healthy or not or if I am spending too much of my time in made up places and not enough in reality. I would be accepted, yes. But is that really love?

Alternately, when I was deciding whether I should get my nose pierced or not, I asked a few moms if my doing this would cause a stumbling block to their daughters in anyway. I know the girls look up to me and I didn’t want to do anything that would cause their moms to want to take them out of contact with me or make them think any less of me (again, because I want to be loved). All of the moms were super supportive and assured me that they saw nothing wrong with it.

But one of the moms added something else. She told me she was fine with it, that it would not affect her daughter in any way. But then she asked me why I was doing it. She challenged me in the most beautiful way to think about whether I was doing it just because I thought it would be a fun change or if I was doing it because of an unrest in my soul. She reminded me that only God can fill that sort of an unrest, that my completion is in Him not a piece of jewelry. And while I simply wanted to get my nose done because I thought it was cute and have for a very, very long time, I still greatly respect this mom because of what she said. She made me examine myself, ask myself if I did need to change or if I was looking for it in the wrong places. She accepted me, yes. But then she loved me enough to challenge me to be a better person.

I could go on and on. I have so many stories about people who have made me a better person because they loved me too much not to.

Love is something that finds you in the place you are. It envelops you in an embrace and tells you everything is going to be all right.

But love doesn’t leave you there. That’s acceptance. Acceptance is saying “Where you are is fine.”

But it’s not. As Christians, we are always working toward being more like Christ, so there is always room for improvement. And, those who believe evolution believe that we are constantly evolving, so we are always changing and growing. Improving.

So, if those two worldviews make up a good portion on the population, why is acceptance so widely taught?

I don’t want people to give me positive affirmation unless they mean it. Please don’t tell me “Good job” unless I actually did a good job. Don’t tell me I’m fine where I am, when I know I am not. Don’t tell me I’m fine even if I think I am.

Positivity is getting in our way. We’re so busy trying to build people up that it becomes a false sense of encouragement. It’s like building a wall with Styrofoam bricks instead of concrete ones. They look great, they seem to be doing the job. But they’re gonna crumble under the least bit of pressure.

What if instead we stopped being positive for the sake of being positive? What if we truly built people up by equipping them to be better people? What if instead of telling people they’re fine we pushed them to be even better?

Because I’m sure I am fine. But I don’t want to be fine. I want to be extraordinary. And not in the way your teachers teach in elementary school, where everyone is special. I mean I want to be pushed to be the very best person I can possibly be.

I want to be challenged. I want to be called out on my crap. I want to be given advice. I want to be told when I do something wrong.

Please speak to me with love. Please be kind. Please be gentle. But please, please, please, don’t accept me for who I am when you know full well that I can be better.

I know I am capable of extraordinary things. I know I can move mountains, I can change the world, I can start a revolution.

But being told those things, they don’t mean anything. Stop telling me I can make a difference, start challenging me about what sort of a difference I am making.

I think my best friend and I get along so well because we can be honest with each other. When she’s being ridiculous, I can tell her. When I’m overreacting, she tells me. I don’t need to be told that my feelings are justified. Believe me, I think that without your help. I need someone to say “Take a step back and breathe. Maybe the other person was just having a bad day.”

I have issues. Major ones. I know this better than anyone. And being told I am okay, being told it’s just who I am, it doesn’t help. It doesn’t make me a better person, it doesn’t help me in anyway. In fact, you’re hindering me when you say that.

Don’t affirm what I say. I don’t want a yes man. Don’t repeat back to me what I just said. Tell me what you’re thinking. Tell me ‘no’ if that’s what I need to hear. Tell me to calm down. Tell me to relax. Tell me to take a step back and examine myself. Challenge me. Push me. Love me.

But don’t accept me.

I never want to settle for mediocrity. And if you are someone who is okay with me settling, no matter how positive you are about it, it’s still a negativity I do not need in my life.