The search for acceptance
“Everything old is new again.” Jonathan Swift 1710
Finding commonality in an increasingly diverse world has always been the blessing or downfall of any civilisation. When we focus on what separates us, we stumble; when we embrace what unites us, we thrive.
When we read these words typed neatly on a page it seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it?
Then why is the lesson of acceptance the one lesson that humans seem unable to learn?
Why do we persist in imagining that we are so superior to those around us that we are somehow qualified to decide who is worthy of acceptance and equally justified in dismissing the efforts of everyone else?
In other words, when did the world transition from one in which all men were created equal to one in which we felt comfortable – even entitled – to judge each other?
Perhaps the real problem is buried within our interpretation of the meaning of the word “acceptance” itself.
The actual origins of this word are a bit cloudy but with a little looking I found a reference to the Latin phrase “alterius acceptionem”, which can be translated to mean openness to others and was used to describe an unqualified state.
In other words, once upon a time individuals were encouraged to simply show openness to others, not to start deciding the degree to which another person “deserved” openness.
But somewhere along the line things changed and acceptance ceased to be something that everyone was entitled to. It became something that individuals were entitled to confer upon each other – or not – based on their own set of standards, or values, or insecurities or prejudices.
And that in a nutshell, as my granny would say, is the problem that still plagues us today. For once a concept becomes something that we feel we are entitled to – we stop questioning the veracity of it.
It becomes our right and we jealously protect it and defend it to the end – no matter how irrational, no matter the cost – because if there is one thing we humans have learnt to do, it is to defend our rights.
I would like to hope that we are more enlightened than our ancestors and that we are raising our children to be more open and accepting of one another. In some respects we are.
But the judgemental old guard are still alive and well and getting pretty sneaky.
If you doubt this just count up the number of places you post comments and interact with others online under the protection of a pseudonym (aka a username). Everyone tells you that these usernames exist to protect your privacy but when did we also become entitled to use this manufactured cloak of secrecy for nefarious purposes – to bully and humiliate those we do not accept?
More importantly – why do we continue to read and “like” these spiteful comments, further emboldening the perpetrators?
It has long been said that the pen is mightier than the sword.
Do we really want to continue to protect the right for people to attack each other in this secretive way?
Or have we finally reached a place where we are ready to take responsibility for our words and actions?
In other words, are we finally ready to embrace the simple undeniable truth that we are all created equal and entitled to acceptance and respect – even when we do not agree with each other, regardless of whether we are right or wrong.
Robin Trimingham is the managing director of The Olderhood Group Ltd and a business consultant, journalist, podcaster and thought leader in the fields of life transition and change management. Connect with Robin at https://bit.ly/3nSMlvc or firstname.lastname@example.org