Jan Johnson

Wisbit - May 2015

Accepting People As They Are

Some of us have an “inner judge” who notices when others don’t do what we think they should do. Maybe they’re not doing their “fair share” or not following through as promised or they’re promoting political policies that we dislike. What do we do with that “inner judge”? I’m on a learning curve of accepting people as they are. (I’m mindful that your journey might be different - that of speaking up - but I think this will still make sense!)

Here’s what my progress has looked like so far: I’m part of a group that highly values accepting others as they are, but I’ve noticed that group members aren’t very welcoming toward a certain person in the group who might be described as “socially disabled.”

  • Long ago: I would have quit the group in disgust.
  • A few years ago: I would have thought I wasn’t condemning them, but would have found myself judging each of the group members’ missteps.
  • Recently: I accept the group members as they are and am befriending the socially disabled person myself.

Before I continue, let me assure you that accepting people as they are does not mean that we we agree with them, approve of their behavior, allow ourselves to be walked on, or pretend that their behavior is what is best for all. We still take appropriate actions to protect ourselves or others.  In other words, we still maintain healthy boundaries.

Here’s what I’m learning.

  1. Talking to people about their disturbing behavior or opinion doesn’t always work. No matter how skilled or respectfully I communicate, they may not “hear” me. In fact, my experience is that “talking it out” is overrated. The other person typically walks away feeling they were attacked. For such as conversation to work, we both have to have open, receptive hearts.
  2. Even if the conversation seems to go well, I need to keep my expectations in check. Why? Because expectations are the early stages of resentment. The longer expectations take root, the deeper the resentment can go.
  3. Sometimes I have been appalled that a Christian leader does certain things. I need to get over it and be realistic. This is who they are at this moment (and this may not be their best moment). I may not like their behavior; I may even feel sad or angry about it, but at a deeper level, I need to be at peace within myself. Their behavior is their decision, not mine.
  4. Accepting people as they are keeps me from tipping into self-righteousness, irritation, fault-finding, and badgering. These are not attitudes and actions I want to encourage in myself.

I’m learning to create space for God’s glory to happen: “So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified” (Rom 15:7 New Living Translation).When God is glorified, God’s goodness, beauty, strength and power are made obvious. I was recently told that if we have respect for people as they are and come alongside them as equals in life, their behavior is more likely to change for the good.

And so I have remained in the group I mentioned above. God continues to use these flawed people (like me) to benefit me. Whether I benefit the others is largely dependent on my having an accepting and loving heart.

June 5-6: I’m exciting about giving Enneagram Training at Bel Air Presbyterian Church. I’ll talk about how we can get “unstuck” and make real progress in our life with God. our character can truly change and we can help others in the same way.

    Grace and peace,
    Jan Johnson



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