The Art of Acquiescence

by Ray Reuter on September 22, 2016

I recently read the following … “It doesn’t always feel that way but constraints in life are a good thing. Especially if we can accept them and let them direct us. They push us to places and to develop skills that we’d otherwise never have pursued.” 

I struggle often times with acceptance. I want to control and plan and predict. And then there is reality. Take traffic signals. Imagine trying to control, plan, and predict them … and then taking it personally when they do not match our vision. People would rightfully think we are nuts! Yet life is doing to us the same thing … telling us to stop here, take a detour there, reroute, slow down. Like in traffic, we can’t argue or yell the red light or road construction away. We simply accept it. And we do not allow the obstacle or challenge to prevent us from reaching our ultimate destination!! (even though it does change the way we travel to get there and the duration of the trip.)

Once we distinguish between the things that are up to us — that we can truly control and influence — and the things that aren’t … and we are ultimately faced with something we don’t control … we’ve got only one option: acceptance. I didn’t get the sale. The relationship did not work out. The job did not get done. The person quit. We can respond with … It’s all fine, it’s all good. You don’t have to like something to master it—or to use it to some advantage. When the cause of our problem lies outside of us, we are better for accepting it and moving on. The Stoics have a beautiful name for this attitude — they call it the Art of Acquiescence.

Understand this is not the same thing as giving up! This is not about taking action—this is for the things that are immune to our action. To accept and embrace reality for what it is takes courage, strength, and humility. All circumstances can be good and beneficial to us. They can teach us lessons we were reluctant to otherwise learn. Life can be a difficult instructor, and the learning can still be significant. There is always someone or something that could change the plan. And that person is not us. As the saying goes, “Man proposes but God disposes.”

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