Acceptance is the decision to work with some specific reality (e.g., “I need to monitor my food intake so I won’t gain weight easily anymore”) or situation (e.g., “The place has been a mess. I must share household responsibilities with my parents/spouse so that meals will be served on time, the house will be cleaner, etc.) or to participate in a required or requested activity. In everyday language, acceptance is about “dealing with what is” and not about striving or pining for some other situation to the point that anyone is undermined by a lack of acceptance, or by a failure to take decisive, productive action.
In today’s politically charged atmosphere of slandering public and private figures in order to undermine their agendas or efforts, a lack of acceptance can lead to chaotic, painful situations. People have been harmed financially or physically, for having opinions different from people who refuse to accept those beliefs.
The argument that acceptance is a passive choice lacks merit. Mental health is not about permitting abuse instead of escaping or ending it, nor about choosing to overindulge in some activity rather than mastering self-control. It’s not about caving in to your compulsions and/or negative moods rather than overcoming them, either. Those activities are called “self-sabotage” and they lead to endless negative consequences plus deteriorating mental health.
Addiction therapy such as Alcoholics, Narcotics and Overeaters Anonymous is based on an attitude of acceptance. Mental health therapy is predicated on acceptance, too. The reason for that is simple: Lack of acceptance precludes progress, as in admitting to and dealing with the ways that people sabotage their chances for self-improvement and other forms of success.
Passive people not only do nothing to prevent other people from harming them, they harm themselves due to the lack of self-protective choices and actions. They tend to deny specific realities, to their own detriment and that of other people. Perhaps the reason that some people confuse acceptance with “wimpiness” is because they don’t understand some of these finer differences between them.
One of the current trends in mental health today is to own a gratitude journal. People are coaxed to record moments of happiness, incidents of success at some endeavor, coincidences that worked out in their favor, and other phenomena that left them happy or happier than they were. That is the essence of acceptance: Acknowledging gratitude and appreciation. It is a pro-active choice, the exact opposite of passivity. Strong-willed people accept reality, deal with it, and enjoy the sense of pride that comes with acceptance. As time goes on, they marvel at their increasing insights, resilience and achievements.