Acceptance

Khanti pāramī : patience, tolerance, forbearance, acceptance, endurance

Acceptance is a key feature of khanti. By accepting things as they are and acknowledging that they may be other than we’d like them to be, we can live more easily in the world.

It’s easy to accept the things we like. It’s the stuff we don’t like that we have to accept before we can see a difficult situation clearly and imagine an appropriate response. I once knew a young quadriplegic who told me, “When this sort of disaster happens to people, it either defeats them or brings out their strengths.” It was easy for him to see this because he was in the latter category. He had established a rehabilitation center for others facing similar disabilities. He was energetic, ambitious, and positive — all the while being completely realistic about his own physical limitations.

Most of us deal with more mundane challenges. Just today, I was kind of amazed at how irritated I was to find the local pool crowded with multiple school classes “hogging” half the lanes. A number of the children didn’t understand that a few lanes had been reserved for the general public, so they meandered across the pool in random patterns. I persisted, but so did my annoyance. On the way home, I was able to marvel at my own low threshold of irritation. The expectation that had been frustrated was based on the fact that normally when I go to the pool at this time of day, on a week day, I get a lane to myself. Just not today. After a short time, I started to see the humor (or at least irony) in the situation; I am pretty spoiled in a lot of ways. Maybe the world is not arranged for my convenience after all…

For many of us, the most difficult things to accept are behaviors of others that don’t conform to how we think they should act, or more particularly, the way WE would act. It is likely that a small minority of people make the same choices we would make, and the majority of other people make very different choices. That seems to be how it is. Can we understand and live peacably with this fact?

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