In the last week or so I have been thinking a lot about the concept of acceptance, acceptance of reality and self-acceptance when it comes to living our lives. Earlier this week I was reminded how the chaplain I worked with last summer would spend a lot of time simply naming reality to patients in the hospital who were struggling to accept the terms of their illnesses. “But you have cancer,” he would softly repeat to a person whose head was swimming with treatments, remedies, and strategies for coping in life. And at first that seemed like such an abrupt, un-pastoral bedside demeanor. But as it turns out, that first crucial step, the ability and action of accepting the reality we are facing, is one that so many patients avoided.And in our pastoral counseling class this semester, we have noted how deep feelings of shame or anxiety still remain in control of one’s life even if one tries to suppress them. In fact, bringing these feelings to reality, to acknowledgment, and acceptance is actually a step toward healing.Today I read a chapter from a book that described these feelings of shame in psychologist Carl Jung‘s language as shadows of the self. Jung says that we are so afraid of these parts of the self, so convinced that they are evil and otherwordly, that we project them onto people in our lives rather than integrate them into our sense of self: in theologian Paul Tillich‘s language, face the nonbeing in order to fully be. This acceptance of reality, hence, becomes integral to self-acceptance, to seeing and loving ourselves as who we are. “This is your truth,” my chaplain last summer used to say. We have to accept the truth of our lives to truly be and respond as God is calling us to do so.


One thought on “Acceptance

  1. As someone who has had to accept having a chronic disease, I would add to your shame and anxiety… In my situation anxiety doesn’t even scratch the surface. I was primordially terrified of what I would face as my body slowly changed and would end up needing further treatment. Not just what would happen within my body, but how I would communicate that to other people, how it would effect my goals, etc, …Not to mention what the various treatments themselves could to to my body… What if I didn’t live to _(insert goal x)_ – Even worse, what if I lived, but didn’t have the energy to _(insert goal y)_. It wasn’t about a little nervousness, it was literally physically entrenched dread. I was terrified that I was slowly, imperseptively falling apart from the inside out.

    For the first 3 years that I knew I couldn’t put my fear into words… the 3rd year I started to draw it. Five years later I can talk about it, but I think that if someone has said, “But you have _____” when I first found out… it would have been all I could do to not either just crumble in front of them or punch them. (seriously, not kidding.) But then again, at that point I wouldn’t have even sat in front of anyone who MIGHT say something like that…

    About a year ago was the first time I saw a chaplain in relation to my chronic issue. (My mother who, as you know, IS a chaplain, was pleasantly shocked when I told her.) …I had been told I might need surgery in the next 6 months and I needed to make some decisions in case the diagnostic test turned needed to be turned into a treatment procedure. I was preparing the best I could emotionally and logistically, but I kept feeling like it just wasn’t enough.

    The chaplain said, “You have a lot of courage. Keep holding on to that.” I realized that one of the only things I hadn’t done was take stock of my own strengths and realize how I really did have so much of it together. 🙂

    …and your poor twin had the privilege of living with me through that “you might need surgery now” false-alarm ordeal – talk about a blessing! She was (& is) a great friend…

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