Have you ever accepted someone completely and totally? Is that what love entails? These are questions that came to me while reading “Dear John” this past Valentine’s Day weekend. Instead of the love story – which is what I read it for – it was the relationship between the main character, John, and his father that hit me so hard. It took John a lifetime to understand and accept his father for all his quirks and the distant relationship they had due to the father’s affliction with something similar to Asperger’s. And once he truly had accepted it, his father became sick and started dying. How sad is that?? And that wasn’t even the main storyline.
As I think about some of the people I have loved, some of the people I couldn’t love because of their personality traits, and some of the people I struggle to love because I feel like it’s what I should do (but it’s not my first thought, believe me), it strikes me that part of my frustration hails from a lack of acceptance of people’s shortcomings. It’s not surprising given my previous posts on saying good-bye to toxic friends and distancing myself from people when they have “wronged” me. I’m starting to think I might not be so willing to move on or distance myself when I learn to accept others for who they truly are – all of them, the good and the bad. We do it with people we really like. We do it with spouses. I can remember my brother-in-law, Chris, telling me why he and my sister had such a solid relationship – because she accepts him for exactly who he is. So why can’t we accept people we don’t particularly like? Maybe there is a trait we are overlooking because we are so focused on the trait we dislike so intensely. I know I’ve done it. Maybe the more Christian way is to accept the person for who they are at that point in life (because we all change and evolve) and focus on the good in them. That’s what John eventually did – focused on how much his dad loved him, how his dad took care of him and did the best he could. It’s probably easier with people who have done so much for you in life. But for those people who it isn’t easy to love, maybe we have to try harder. Maybe we have to try to understand them, to forgive them their weaknesses and to hail their strengths. This kind of approach could go a long way in helping people relate to one another. My father likes to tell me – try to see the good in a situation or a person. I’ll tell you, it is infinitely more pleasing and gives me a much higher energy level to do that than to focus on the negative or what bothers me about a situation or a person. Instead of concentrating on what someone can’t do (can’t love me right, doesn’t treat me well, won’t give me respect, etc.), why not concentrate on what someone can do and has done and pray for when the person will be able to do what it is you’re in search of. It might never happen, but then again, it just might. Either way, the journey – which is what it is really all about if you think about it – will be that much smoother. Acceptance of life as it comes and the people who are in it is a much easier and more peaceful path. If you want to read more about that, I highly recommend Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” – if it’s the right time and you really consider it, it will change your life.