Re: Re: What is Acceptance, Anyway?

charick added a post to the discussion about acceptance, and he brought in an important point that I completely forgot to address in my initial response: acceptance requires self-forgiveness.

Previous posts:

ew0k's original post
my response
charick's response

From charick:

You seem to be focused on this idea that you should be able to control the change that occurs. I think it is very useful to recognize that we as people only have extremely limited control over change, especially change in ourselves.


You clearly have changed yourself, or you would not regret some of the things in your past. Acceptance here would mean recognizing that you are not the same person as the past. The past is the past, it's done and over, and you've changed and learned to regret some of the decisions you've made. The only thing you can do here is forgive yourself for your past.
In summary, acceptance in this context means recognizing what you can and can not do. What you do and do not control. Loving yourself, including the versions of yourself that have messed up in the past.

In my post, I stayed mostly in the abstract philosophical/ethical domain, trying to elaborate why "acceptance" of bad things is not the same as believing that they are okay. But when you come to the point of actually "accepting" your own bad decisions, or those of others, it does require forgiveness. Which is much more a decision of the will, which one's emotions will fight, than a philosophical abstract.

Honestly, a lot of Christians are bad at forgiving ourselves. I was too, and I see many brothers and sisters tear themselves apart emotionally for a lack of forgiveness. We recognize and believe that God has forgiven us, but then limit that forgiveness to the idea that he won't punish us for what we have done. We worry that forgiving ourselves is making excuses for our past behavior or letting ourselves off the hook. And if we can forgive ourselves for our past sins, what's the incentive to do what is right in the future? Are we enabling ourselves?

(To break into theological terminology, we accept "justification by grace" instead of "justification by works," but then pursue "*sanctification* by works.")

But forgiving ourselves isn't the same as enabling ourselves precisely because we now desire to do what is right and because we are changing. We recognize that it is over with, and even if we do repeat the same mistake in the future, we are heading away from it and pursuing higher things.

(More theology: Even if Christians don't trust ourselves to do continue pursuing what is right, we should still believe that we are growing because God has promised that he is sanctifying us and will continue to sanctify us through the Holy Spirit. See for example Romans 8:28-30, Philippians 2:12-13, 1st Thessalonians 5:23, and Hebrews 13:20-21.)

There's only one point in charick's post that I have a concern with...

[Acceptance means] loving yourself, including the versions of yourself that have messed up in the past. Those are you too, and those were doing what they thought were right too. [...] You did things in the past you regret, but you know you can forgive yourself because you did not know you were making a mistake at the time, and you do know that going forwards you will continue doing what you believe to be correct.

Sometimes our past bad decisions are what we were thought was right at the time. But we can't ignore the reality that humans do make decisions that we know are wrong when we let our baser impulses (pride, anger, fear, greed, etc.) override our conscience and our rational judgment. If forgiving ourselves requires us to believe that we were doing what we thought was right at the time, then we have to either rationalize away these mistakes, or leave some of them unforgiven.

The reality of forgiveness is that we have to acknowledge that an action was wrong in order to forgive it. This applies to forgiving ourselves and to forgiving others.

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