You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must not forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your ‘part’ mean anything.” –1 Corinthians 12: 37 (The Message)
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body” –Ephesians 4: 25
Acceptance means “taking to oneself”. It is the state of receiving someone into relationship. Acceptance applies to my relationship with God, with others, and with all the good and bad parts of me. In Christ, believers know from the Bible that the matter of acceptance is forever settled between them and God. Experiencing that same assurance of acceptance in a family group, a peer group, or a group of believers can be very difficult.
We first get the courage to become who we are from our parents. Later on siblings, extended family, friends, and authority figures help us see ourselves in relation to others. Throughout our lives, social acceptance is essential in processing daily experience.
As God is both all just and all loving, so the freedom to be real and accepted at the same time depends upon both knowledge and love. Our hope is that people will like us because they know us; too often it feels like others know us, therefore they don’t like us. We all crave to be both truly known and loved at the same time. Genuine relationship can’t occur without knowledge and love together.
Trust is tied to love. We can’t love whom we don’t trust, nor can we trust someone we do not love in some way. Acceptance means we can trust we are loved enough that we don’t have to be care-full about what we say and do around someone. In a group this means safety to be whom we are, to confess our failures, sins, and weaknesses to one another, so we can heal together.
We all need a sense of personal safety with at least a few others. It’s built into our nature. We can’t thrive without real relationship, as infants or old people. Safety means no condemnation when we bring our needs, our judged parts, our hiding styles, our fig leaves, our brokenness, and our weaknesses into relationship with trusted others.
Acceptance is not the same as approval. It simply means my personal story and my identity will be not judged and rejected, but taken in with care. It’s easier to own who we are when others accept us. We are all learning and we are all in process. Some of us have great needs; we all have great needs at some times.
The goal in relationship is to be authentic without fear of losing acceptance. Acceptance and being accepted are not easy for any of us, yet self-acceptance is the first great step of inner healing. Self-acceptance is reinforced in a community of safe people.