What Does It Mean to Practice Unconditional Acceptance?
Learning how to embrace the messiness of life.
The topic of unconditional acceptance is a complex one: It’s easy to like your child when they’re in a great mood and they’re feeling agreeable. It’s much harder to enjoy your child’s company when they’re crying, screaming at you, or refusing to go to school.
On a deeper level, your kid may have an illness that is hard for you to accept, or they may be gay or lesbian, which could be extremely challenging for you to deal with if you grew up in a Christian family or one with other conservative religious beliefs. Of course, almost every parent wants to accept and love their child unconditionally, but this can sometimes be a tall order.
The first thing to remember is that unconditional acceptance refers to the inherent value of a human being, regardless of their behaviors or life choices. Loving your child unconditionally requires reliable and predictable boundaries based in emotional and physical safety.
When you think of a baby, you most likely find this being inherently valuable, no matter how much it cries, screams, or throws tantrums. Of course, infants don’t really know any better, so it’s often much easier to accept them: When you see an adult who struggles with anger management issues, it’s usually much harder to practice unconditional acceptance.
Although accepting people as they are can be stressful, it’s often a more effective strategy than trying to change them. For example, your son might come out as gay. This could be a jarring reality for a father to adapt to, especially if he grew up in a religious family. He could try to change his son’s sexual orientation, but that would be a deeply negative way to deal with this situation, and it would make his son feel as though he was only conditionally loved.
On the other hand, the father could let his son know that he loves him no matter what, and that he accepts him being attracted to men. The two of them would get along, and the son would feel like he could be his true self without having to hide anything from his father. Unconditional acceptance is challenging, but it’s doable, although it often requires a tremendous amount of self-discovery, grief, loss, and acceptance of self.
If you find yourself struggling with judgemental attitudes towards your children, or anyone else for that matter, try sitting alone in a room or a park, and simply observing your thoughts. You don’t have to label them as positive or negative, but you can merely watch them go by like leaves on a river. Oftentimes, you will realize just how harsh you’re being, and allow yourself to distance yourself from your own thoughts, at least enough to filter your words before you share them with others. None of us are perfect, and we all make mistakes sometimes, but it’s best to practice acceptance whenever you can, especially with your own family!
If we continue with the previous example, a mother or a father may fundamentally disagree with their son being gay, especially if they grew up in a Christian household. They may believe that this is wrong. However, their child is still expressing to them that he is attracted to men, and that it feels fundamentally wrong for him to pursue relationships with women, since this is the case.
The parents have two options: They can tell him he is sinning and ban him from their household, usually causing him to feel as though there is something inherently wrong with him and often resulting in him never wanting to speak with them again, or they can sit down and let him know that they love him no matter what, and they want him to be happy. They don’t have to personally agree with his choices in order to do this, but they must accept that he is going to live his life in the way that feels most authentic to him.
Many people approach this issue by saying that God told his followers not to judge: Even if someone is gay, it is not the parents’ job to judge, and it is not their job to try to change that person’s sexual orientation. Christianity, Islam, and other conservative religious beliefs.
Furthermore, Christianity and other conservative religions have become more progressive when it comes to embracing the LGBTQ+ community. As a result, many people have felt more comfortable joining the congregation. It’s important to know that all faith communities can fall prey to biases, and that it is paramount for religious leaders to prioritize acceptance of every individual.
Addiction is now often seen as a disease that needs treatment and the judgment surrounding it is slowly diminishing. There are many people who look down on those who don’t conform to the “norms” of society, but there are also many others who are opening their minds and working hard to embrace everyone in this world, no matter which religion they follow or what their religious beliefs are. Religion in general, whether it’s Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, or Christianity, can be a controversial subject, but it’s important that we all work towards finding a common middle ground.
The point is that, even if you deeply disagree with your child’s choices, you absolutely must let them know that you will do what is best for them developmentally, and that you respect their decision or, in this case, their reality. If you feel comfortable, you can even take it a step further by asking your son about his relationships or inquiring about gay nightclubs in the area: This will likely help him feel more at home, and he may even continue practicing the faith if it resonates with him, especially if he feels accepted by the congregation. After all, every religion is fundamentally about aspiring to unconditionally love one another.
In the previous example, the son did not make a choice, but he had to accept a reality that was probably very difficult for his family to adjust to. Imagine your daughter was a drug addict: She willingly drank way too much wine every single day, and you, as her mother, are trying to tell her to stop: How do you navigate this journey? You want to set firm boundaries, but you also want her to know that you’re there for her no matter what.
The second way of dealing with the problem is best: Addicts are usually deeply lonely individuals, which is why they have a problem in the first place, so telling them that they can’t see their loved ones is not an effective solution. However, the mother can let her daughter know that she is concerned for her health, that she is willing to help her with rehab costs, or that she won’t buy her any alcohol. These are all productive ways to show that she cares without shaming the child. It’s paramount for her daughter to know that she will be loved and accepted whether she’s had seven drinks in the past week or she’s completely sober. The best thing to do is send her to a professional care clinic where they can help her recover.
Establishing boundaries is key to any healthy relationship: If your significant other is always spending too much money, it’s important to sit down with them and gently explain to them that this is not sustainable. You may even want to talk to them about why they spend so much: Did they grow up poor? Do they place their self-worth on how many things they can afford? If the issues run deep, you may want to consider couples counseling, so that they can work through the deep-seated beliefs they hold about finances.
It may simply be that they love spending money, especially if it’s not theirs. If this is the case, it’s best to establish a budget that the two of you can agree upon: Some compromises will likely have to be made, but it will be helpful to be on the same page about your savings, investments, and expenses.
The unfortunate reality is that your boundaries will not always be followed: Your significant other might spend too much money, and your daughter might continue to ask you for bottles of wine as gifts even though you’ve told her you’re not willing to support her addiction.
These are only some examples of unconditional acceptance. The first one is a truth that can be difficult to grapple with for everyone involved, but it’s not something the son can change. Emotional dysregulation is the source of the other maladaptive behaviors. Whatever the case is, it’s essential to maintain healthy boundaries while letting your loved ones know that you will accept them no matter what they do.