Learning to Accept

Acceptance is not tolerating and acceptance is definitely not approval. Acceptance and forgiveness are linked, in that one requires the other. Acceptance and surrender are similar in some ways, different in others. Acceptance is the first step in taking action against resignation and it is often the first step that leads to understanding. While acceptance may be linked to other concepts, nothing can take its place. Only by identifying and accepting the things you are struggling with can you begin to deal with them in positive, specific ways.

Title Photo by Brian Forsyth

A Fresh Start

My friend Carol is a middle-aged woman who’s been through her fair share of trials and tribulations in life. For years, she carried the weight of past mistakes, regrets, and the scars left by broken relationships. Her days were often tainted by the shadows of what could have been and what she should have done differently.

One sunny morning, as she sat by her window, sipping a cup of tea, a vibrant red cardinal landed on the windowsill. Carol watched as the bird hopped closer, its feathers shining in the warm rays of the sun. For a brief moment, she and the cardinal shared a connection — a reminder that life is full of beauty and serenity.

As she gazed at the cardinal, a realization washed over her. She understood that the heavy baggage of her past was preventing her from fully embracing the present. Carol decided it was time for a fresh start. It wasn’t about tolerating the memories, forgiving those who had wronged her, seeking approval from others, or surrendering to a life tainted by regret. Instead, it was about acceptance.

Acceptance wasn’t about dismissing her past; it was about acknowledging it without judgment. It was the recognition that life’s journey had led her to this moment, complete with all its ups and downs. With acceptance, she found the power to let go of the past’s grip on her soul and made a choice to focus on the present and the future.

As Carol did, you and I can realize that acceptance is a journey of self-compassion and liberation — a path to experiencing life’s beauty without the weight of the past holding us back. So let’s look briefly into what acceptance is and, importantly, what it is not.

Acceptance and Tolerations

“Acceptance is a place of peace. In our acceptance, we create a field of grace. What we tolerate and what we accept tells a story of who we are.” ~ Jefferson M Fish, Ph.D.

Aim for tolerance, not toleration. Tolerance is an attitude, tolerating is an action. Tolerating is allowing or permitting an “action, idea, object, or person that one dislikes or disagrees with.” [“Toleration”]

You can tolerate something without accepting it but to deal with the issue, person, etc. that you are tolerating, you must first accept it as it is. Wishing for things to change is ineffective. Hoping that things will change is hopeless. First, accept them for what they are, then get busy and deal with them.

A sign of tolerating is taking the view that “I can live with this,” whatever “this” is – a behavior (yours or someone else’s), a situation, a habit, or a particular environment. Accepting the behavior, situation, habit, or environment doesn’t mean you’ll live with it. It simply means that you are looking at things as they are, not as you wish they were.

Please note that we are talking only of tolerating, putting up with things, not about being tolerant, which is a form of acceptance, but without the need to change anything.

Acceptance and Approval

Acceptance and approval are two completely different concepts, although we sometimes mistakenly link the two. They are not equals, nor are they mutually exclusive. [Taylor] Also, one does not depend on the other. Acceptance comes from the belief, “I do not have to understand or agree with you in order to value you”. [Taylor]

Approval is a different animal altogether. Some synonyms for approval include consent, agreement, assent, blessing, endorsement, and permission. This really has nothing to do with acceptance.

Again, to fix anything, you must first accept it. But you don’t have to approve of it.

learning to accept

Photo by Valeriia Miller

Acceptance and Forgiveness

To forgive requires that you accept a wrong that was done and that you make a conscious decision to forgive the person who wronged you. [Colter] But – and if I’m starting to sound like a broken record, please forgive me – forgiveness does not require that you approve the wrong that was done. However, it does require that you accept it. Trying to ignore it or sweeping it under the rug might work short-term, but it will rise up again.

The act of forgiving is within everyone’s power, but the ability to forgive varies from person to person. While forgiveness can be difficult for some of us, studies have shown that there are benefits for those who learn to forgive: deeper happiness, greater life satisfaction, better physical health, healing of relationships.

Forgiveness requires acceptance of the facts of the case, but again, acceptance is not approval. And ultimately, forgiveness is for you, not the other person. Seething and stewing is only hurting yourself, no one else. Accept whatever has happened as reality, then work to forgive.

Acceptance and Surrender

We sometimes think of these two words, and the ideas behind them, as synonymous, that they are basically the same thing. They are not the same thing but each one can be necessary at times.

Acceptance, as we’ve already seen, is acknowledging what is. It involves recognizing and acknowledging the reality of the situation, emotion, or experience without judgment. Acceptance is an active, not passive process, as you engage with the experience in a non-reactive way. [Nepo] It allows you to be receptive to the lessons offered by the encounter.

Surrender is letting go of the need to always be in control of the situation, of another person, or of events. (It is helpful here to remember the Stoic dictum to be aware of that which we can control and that which we can’t.) It’s trusting the process and allowing life to lead you rather than trying to lead it. [Nepo]

Both acceptance and surrender involve letting go of resistance and attachment. They encourage a non-struggling, non-controlling approach to life. Both are paths to reducing inner turmoil and suffering but they are different paths.

Acceptance is primarily focused on acknowledging and making peace with what is happening in the present moment. Surrender is about letting go of the need to control future outcomes. Acceptance is more immediate and focused on what’s happening now. Surrender, on the other hand, involves a longer-term trust in the process of life.

Acceptance and surrender are related but they are different concepts. Acceptance of anything does not require surrender.

Acceptance and Resignation

Just as we learned that acceptance and approval are not related, I want to be clear about acceptance and resignation as well.

Resignation is basically giving up or giving in. It is a feeling of hopelessness that things will ever change and the helplessness that goes with it. If you are resigned to a situation, or to your fate, you’ve decided that there is nothing you can do, so why bother?

Acceptance is not about giving up. Acceptance is more action-oriented. You acknowledge the reality of the situation (you don’t try to ignore it) and then you act to do what must be done. This includes taking care of yourself, finding the next step that is best for you and taking that step, and comforting yourself and others if necessary.

With resignation, you risk wallowing in self-pity, unable to see the choices before you. With acceptance, you see the event or situation more clearly and understand that you still have a choice, even if it’s simply to change how you respond.

Acceptance and Understanding

More than any of the other pairs we’ve talked about, acceptance and understanding are like two sides of the same coin. Acceptance and understanding often go hand in hand. To truly accept something or someone, you often need to understand the situation or person. Conversely, gaining understanding can lead to acceptance. When you understand the reasons behind someone’s actions or a particular situation, you’re less likely to judge or resist it. This reduction in judgment and resistance is a form of acceptance. When you understand and accept your own flaws and imperfections, it can lead to self-improvement and a more positive self-image.

Both concepts involve empathy and open-mindedness. Accepting and understanding others can lead to greater peace and harmony in relationships and communities. When people feel understood and accepted, they are more likely to cooperate and work together effectively. Acceptance often follows understanding, and it can be a catalyst for personal and interpersonal growth.

Understanding is often a prerequisite for acceptance. It allows us to see things from a different perspective, empathize with others, and reduce resistance. By practicing both acceptance and understanding, you can enhance your relationships, reduce conflict, and find greater peace and harmony in your life.

When Acceptance Is Difficult

(Please NOTE: I am neither a medical professional nor a licensed counselor. If you are struggling and simply cannot accept or move past a situation you are dealing with, I urge you to seek the assistance of a qualified professional.)

When acceptance is hard, remind yourself that you can’t change what has already happened and that denial only prolongs the agony. If you think you cannot accept the situation or event, use your imagination.  If you could accept, what would that look like?  How would you feel?

Remember, acceptance is not approval. It’s not surrender. And acceptance is not resignation. You aren’t accepting the thing, whatever it is, forever. Situations change, people change, you change. But although things may change, acceptance involves giving up the desire that things will be different.

So do what you can do. If it is something you can control, change it, fix it, or solve it. But if it’s something outside of your immediate control, change your perspective. See it as a challenge instead of a problem. Let the obstacle that blocks your way become the way. Don’t try to hide or ignore your feelings. Feel what you feel and accept your feelings. Try this technique. [Hall]

  • Relax, take a few deep breaths.
  • Observe the thoughts that bubble up – “It isn’t fair.” “It isn’t right.” “I hate it.” Let each one go.
  • Practice an acceptance statement – “It is what it is.” “I can’t change what has happened but here’s what I can do.”
  • Begin to focus on what you can control (primarily your thoughts and emotions) and don’t resist what you can’t control and cannot change.

As you become adept at accepting a particular situation, you can then explore the lessons that you might glean from the experience.

First Steps

Whenever you find yourself struggling to accept an event, a situation, or a person and thinking in terms of should or shouldn’t, try The Excelerator JumpStart – Excelerated Acceptance to jump-start your ability and your resolve to accept and deal with all the things sent your way as you pursue your Excelerated Life™.

The Excelerator JumpStart – Excelerated Acceptance gives you steps you can take right now to begin identifying and accepting the things you are struggling with – to begin learning and using Excelerated Acceptance™.

Learning to Accept

Acceptance is not tolerating and acceptance is definitely not approval. Acceptance and forgiveness are linked, in that one requires the other. Acceptance and surrender are similar in some ways, different in others. Acceptance is the first step in taking action against resignation and it is often the first step that leads to understanding.

Acceptance is often difficult but it is necessary if we are to deal with those people and situations we’ve been putting up with. It is helpful in that it can bring about a better understanding and that may lead, when necessary, to forgiveness.

While acceptance may be linked to other concepts, nothing can take its place. By learning to accept the things you are struggling with, you can begin to deal with them in positive, specific ways. Then you are embracing your Excelerated Life™!

What have you struggled to accept?
Was it mixed up with the other concepts: tolerating, accepting, forgiveness, surrender, or resignation?
Share your experience by leaving a comment below.

Excelerated Acceptance™ – identifying and accepting the things you are struggling with — is one practice for creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being, and a life of meaning, purpose, and service.

Read more about the Excelerated Life.


Colter, James L. “3 Ways Acceptance and Forgiveness Can Intertwine.” myTherapyNYC. myTherapyNYC,. Web. October 14, 2023.

Fish, PhD, Jefferson M. “Tolerance, Acceptance, Understanding.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC, February 25, 2014. Web. October 14, 2023.

Hall, PhD, Karyn. “Radical Acceptance.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC, July 8, 2012. Web. April 22, 2023.

Nepo, Mark. The Book of Awakening. Red Wheel, 1 Jan. 2020.

Taylor, Heidi. “Acceptance vs. Approval.” Peace Partnership Counseling & Education. Peace Partnership, October 1, 2021. Web. October 14, 2023.

“Toleration.” en.wikipedia.org. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., September 26, 2023. Web. October 14, 2023.

This blog post includes research information and suggestions provided by ChatGPT, an AI language model developed by OpenAI. The content was generated with AI assistance and is intended to provide information and guidance. Please note that the suggestions are not official statements from OpenAI. To learn more about ChatGPT and its capabilities, you can visit the OpenAI website.

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