I saw this great question on Reddit: What’s the difference between Acceptance and Giving up?
Some great answers there, I’d like to give my own.
Giving up is a passive state– it is giving in to the forces of chaos, forces that want to pull us down into ignorance.
Acceptance is a very active and courageous state.
The key thing is: Both are internal states. Externally, you may act how you want.
One person giving up and another person accepting may both act externally in the same way, but their internal states will be different.
Take an example: Say you are stuck in a dead end job you cannot quit (due to financial or family or visa reasons).
The person giving up would become bitter and angry. They would do their job in a very passive-aggressive way, not just doing the bare minimum but subtly sabotaging the company.
The person accepting the situation will accept they are stuck in that job for now, but will keep looking for better opportunities or improving their skills.
I have been in both the places above, so I know how big the difference is.
Giving up is saying: Fuck it, none of this shit matters, why even bother?
Acceptance is looking into the eyes of the tiger, realising you are scared shitless, but still moving forward. It is accepting you may not succeed but still having the courage to move, even if all you can move is a finger.
Acceptance doesn’t mean living with a bad situation
From the Reddit post above:
Acceptance is not approval. It’s not passive. It’s a willingness to see the world the way it really is. Not the way we want it to be, and not what we’re afraid of. Just what is.https://old.reddit.com/r/Meditation/comments/13p946n/whats_the_difference_between_acceptance_and/jl8mgnd/
This is the problem many people have– they think if you accept, you will have to live with a bad situation. Nor does acceptance mean you have to keep grinding in a bad situation, using that idiotic “Winners never quit” saying.
Sometimes, the first step to accepting you are in shit is to accept you are. Many people try to hide from their problems or pretend they don’t exist. People remain with abusive partners hoping the other person will change one day.
Eckhart Tolle gave this example: If your foot gets stuck in the mud, the first step is to accept your shoe and trousers are ruined. Then you take a breath and try to pull your foot out. You don’t just sit there in a bad situation claiming everyone– taking action is a part of acceptance.
In regards to relationships: In some relationships, you need to stick and do the work. In others, you need to walk away. I can’t give you any general advice but I can give this golden ticket:
The first step in any problematic relationship is to accept you have a problem
This could be your boss, your wife, your parents, your kids or your friends. First you need to accept that you have a problem. You need to verbalise, say out loud or write down– just a vague “Yeah something wrong” isn’t good enough.
Then you need to accept the situation, as it is. I find that true acceptance is a very cathartic feeling, like a weight being lifted off your shoulders. Because once you accept your problems, only then can you find the courage to go beyond them.
Sometimes, you may need to quit (a job, a relationship). Other times, you may find you are the problem and while this can be very painful, it goes a long way to resolve the situation. Most times, you will find you need some compromise. This compromise is way, way, easier if you already know what your values are and what you are willing to accept.
And that’s why I say, acceptance is a very active and courageous state of mind.