“Life is bristling with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to cultivate one’s garden.”
Acceptance is a funny thing. We all crave it from each other but we often don’t easily give it to each other. What we find easy to do is judge, find fault, and exclude. But do you have any idea what a beautiful gift it is to welcome someone, with open arms, into your circle; to accept them wholeheartedly into your life? We all know what it’s like to be excluded, to be judged and found wanting; but the joy of true acceptance is something we all remember with fondness.
I have two 7th graders that just went back to *real* school, after being homeschooled for five years. I know they’re mine and I’m probably a teeny bit prejudiced, but I think they are completely adorable. They’re cute, bright, talented, sweet, quick to apologize, and easy to please. I wasn’t really too worried about them fitting in. But, they were. Because fitting in is the craving of our hearts. We want to be seen and known and loved. I coached them over and over to not worry so much about whether they are being accepted, but to make sure they are accepting others into their lives. Don’t wait to be taken in to someone else’s circle. Take someone into yours.
Groups of people form naturally by the likes and interests of the people involved. But lurking closely is temptation to what C.S. Lewis, in his book The Weight of Glory calls the ‘inner ring’. And we often perceive that we are somehow just ‘outside’ it. You know the ‘inner ring’ well from high school; the group of girls that are inseparable and exist for the sole purpose of excluding everyone else from their circle. The group is usually not a natural, organic group that forges easily because of the like interests shared by the parties. It’s a group that has the appearance of including the ‘important people’ or the ‘people in the know’. And the basis for its existence is exclusion.
The allure for the inner ring only works if there’s an imaginary line of admittance which is guarded tightly by those already inside, with very arbitrary rules about who gets in. Over the years, as I’ve studied people and read a lot, I’ve come to certain sympathy for the excluders or the mean girls as we call them. Without knowing it, we’ve all been mean girls from time to time. And more often than not, it’s insecurity that fuels their behavior. And we are all at times selfish, prejudice, insecure, arrogant, and afraid.
But here’s one thing that is true. You can spend your whole life hiding inside your exclusive inner ring and you may never know the joy of true relationship. Opening yourself to others is dangerous. Accepting others into your life and heart can be risky business. But, your willingness to be alive and vulnerable and accepting will change your life and theirs.
Stop waiting for those certain people to make you part of their group. Plant your own beautiful garden—and tend it well.
When you extend your heart to someone in love and acceptance, you are offering life to them, in world hell bent on hate and judgement.
You are cultivating something in your life either way—it might as well be roses.
Day 8: Think of someone you have been unfairly critical of or judgemental towards. What assumptions did you make about them and their situation. Now, think of a time when someone has judged you unfairly or given you the benefit of the doubt. How did you feel? What is something you could do today to show compassion to someone in your life.
Be sure to read Ruth’s corresponding post, Less Judgement.
Are you often critical and judgemental of others? When the first critical thought enters your mind today, stop yourself and give that person the benefit of the doubt.
What kind of garden are you cultivating?