Acceptance: Then What?
Last month I talked about accepting people as they are. I received many appreciative emails, especially about this line: Expectations are the early stages of resentment. I also received some good questions. Here are my responses.
- But isn’t it sometimes good to confront people? Yes, but acceptance is still crucial. “Talking it out” works only if we both have a right heart. Even if only one of us has a right heart, that generosity of spirit can be contagious.
- How does letting go of expectations of others apply to the work setting and a supervisory relationship? What should happen if there are expectations that are not met? In The Divine Conspiracy,Dallas Willard talked about the difference between condemnation and discernment:
We do not have to – we cannot – surrender the valid practice of distinguishing and discerning how things are in order to avoid condemning others. We can, however, train ourselves to hold people responsible and discuss their failures with them – and even assign them penalties, if we are, for example, in some position over them – without attacking their worth as human beings or marking them as rejects (p. 225).
Perhaps you have heard stories of people who were reprimanded by their superiors but in such a “fatherly” way – full of integrity and compassion – that they left inspired to change. My experience of Dallas was that he assumed the best about me, which was not was always true! But in so doing, he gave me a vision of life in the Kingdom of God, which I found beautiful. So I responded by moving toward his vision of me.
- My own question: Accepting people isn’t enough. Can’t that lead to cynicism, which is really a form of contempt: “he’s a jerk; oh, well!”? As I read the book Belonging (by Matthew, Dennis & Sheila Linn), this phrase lit up on the page: “find the good in someone or what they’re doing and build on that.” To do so is an expression of hope. It assumes that God is at work and that I want to join God in that work.
That worked in Epiphany Ministry, which gives retreats in youth correctional facilities. The guideline given is: listen, listen, love, love. By doing so, we find the good in these incarcerated teenagers and build on that goodness with friendliness, teaching and guidance.
Jesus did this a lot. I asked people to post about this on my FB Author page; Peter and the disciples were favorite examples. Or consider Zacchaeus the mobster. In that tradition, chief tax collectors skimmed money off the other tax collectors who skimmed money off Jewish citizens. Zacchaeus needed to climb the tree not just because he was short, but also because it wouldn’t have been safe for him to walk unprotected in a crowd. A knife would have appeared out of nowhere from at least one person he had bled dry. When Jesus looked up into the leafy sycamore tree and saw the infamous gangster hiding there, he seems to have seen enough goodness to choose to build on it (Luke 19:1-10).
These thoughts led me to “find the good and build on it” in someone who frustrates me. You know the rest – a miraculous response came from that person and blessed me. Because the powerful Holy Spirit dwells in us, we can try this out and watch God work.
Grace and peace,
© Jan Johnson – For permission to reprint, http://janjohnson.org/reprints.html
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