A few days ago I had an argument with a friend. She got very passionate about the point she was trying to make, and I asked her to lower her voice and use softer words, so we can continue the exchange of opinions in a hospitable manner. ‘Why would you say that?”, she paused with a hurt expression on her face. ‘Why can’t you accept me for who I am?”.
I did accept her, to a certain limit. Had she not changed her approach, I would have left the room.
Rejecting an argument or an attitude is not equal to rejecting the person
I still appreciate my friend’s many qualities even if I won’t have her shout at me. I know how uncomfortable it feels to have someone disagree with you, but we need it and we should welcome it. Feeling bad about someone contradicting us is not their problem (even when they do it for the mere pleasure of upsetting us), it is ours. We need to let go of the I-must-be-always-right-otherwise-I-am-a-crappy-person illusion.
Acceptance is always conditioned
Thinking otherwise would be naïve and counterproductive. Parents accept their children if they eat their vegetables. If they look both sides before crossing the street. If they stay in school. If they have the right friends. If they marry well. If they love parents back. And so forth. Children are less demanding. They will accept their parents as long as they are loved. As for all other types of relationships, the ‘if’ factor seems obvious to me.
We do it to others as well
Re-ci-pro-ci-ti-ty. We ask to be accepted while we reject others, you know, for who they are. Anyone who got a divorce knows what I mean.
Being accepted does not mean we can stop making efforts
Good, lasting relationships are always the result of persistent effort made by all sides. We may live with the different opinions or lifestyles of the others, but we still need to see them caring for us and trying to, at least, not make our lives harder than they already are. Not doing that might get you free to say or do whatever you want, but you will do it all alone.
That’s what I tried to explain to my perplex friend yesterday. She didn’t like it, but I thought you might.