Acceptance vs. Resignation


“It is what it is”.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say this  recently. It seems to be our society’s new phrase that we currently use to acknowledge that sometimes we’re better off to give up fighting against our circumstances. And I often appreciate the “it is what it is” mentality—it keeps us sane!  And yet, sometimes, I feel like there is something sinister and unhelpful lurking behind the phrase.

What is motivating us when we decide to stop fighting against our circumstances? Is it acceptance or is it resignation? I’ve become convinced that the two are very different and that we wind up in vastly different places depending on which is behind our “it is what it is” mentality.

ACCEPTANCE is often sad or weighty, but not helpless. Acceptance has a quality of sobriety, groundedness and self-efficacy. While there may be grief associated with acceptance, there is hope for something new.

RESIGNATION is also often sad and weighty, but there is helplessness connected to it. Resignation has a quality of lying down, of sinking, and of powerlessness. Rather than grief, there can be a simmering resentment associated with resignation. I rarely detect hope in the face of resignation.

In the counseling room, I feel like real work can be done if my client is in the place of acceptance. There is a clear mind and ready spirit for whatever may be required for the next phase. Resignation, on the other hand, is reflected in muddied and ruminative spirals. It is very hard to move anywhere when a client is in the place of resignation because the spirit of helplessness is so strong. Acceptance leads to resolve, change, and even determination while resignation leads to paralysis, bitterness, and sometimes depression.

How have you successfully made the shift form resignation to acceptance?  What do you think the key is to staying in the place of empowered acceptance of unchangeable circumstances in your life?

Many conversations about acceptance versus resignation happened in response to my recent blog “Milk in a Hardware Store” (click here to read it). At it’s best, the shift I’m talking about there is one towards acceptance, not resignation.

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