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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Gibbons

Your Acceptance May Piss Me Off

Be prepared—the more accepting we become of things that are clearly “unacceptable,” the more the world will tell us we’re wrong. In practice, we may find that our acceptance itself is simply “unacceptable”—at least to some people.


Because by accepting what’s generally considered to be unacceptable, we’re challenging other people’s understanding of the world. We’re then responding to the world differently because of our alternate interpretation of it. Things that are clearly not okay for the vast majority of people are considered okay by us. And this upsets people.

If, for example, you and I have the same boss and we both experience similar levels of unreasonable, harsh treatment from her, I might expect you to have a similar response of “It’s not fair” or “Her behavior is unacceptable.” If you then turn around and tell me, “It’s all okay,” I may not be too impressed. I may be bemused or uncomprehending of your “weird” response to such a clearly unacceptable situation. But worse still, I may be pissed off. Pissed off because you’re not supporting my negative view of our boss, of how things should be, or of how the world is. You’re simply refusing to play ball with me.

So when we go out for coffee and I need you to join my ranting against our evil boss, and you don’t cooperate, I hate that. I need you to reinforce my sense of being wronged. I need you to embolden my feeling of poor me. And you don’t.

Even worse—you may then try to explain to me why our boss might be behaving the way she is. You might express understanding for her. God forbid—I may even detect your compassion for her. And that’s not the way it should be. Because while I’m stewing in my angry juices, you’re perfectly content. Quite peaceful in fact.

And your peace could really piss me off.

How can you—in exactly the same situation as me—not be upset in the same way? Isn’t it clear to you that our boss’s behavior should not be accepted in any way, shape, or form? How can you be okay with all this?

The irony is that of the two of us, you’re the one who’s more likely to actively do something that might change our relationship with the boss. Not by reacting out of anger or resentment but coming from a calm place of acceptance of the situation as it is. Responding appropriately without the urge to blame or judge the person who may be subjecting you to her dysfunctional behavior. And maybe—just maybe—if I see that you’ve calmly done something to improve office relations—not only for you, but also for me—I might start to realize that your “crazy” outlook might not be so wrong after all.

Maybe there really is something in this acceptance thing?

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