Learning the difference between tolerance and acceptance can be life-changing. For example, the moment we learn not only to tolerate, but also to fully accept our shortcomings, we are free from stress, anxiety, and doubt.
As a small child, I always had to go shopping for groceries with my mom. I never knew which store we went to or how long it would take, so I asked every minute how long we would be on the move.
I didn't reluctantly walk along but instead wanted to be home to continue with my Lego blocks. You could say that I accepted to walk along, but that was far from true. I tolerated it to the limit of my abilities.
The difference between tolerating and accepting is that acceptance has a form of resignation that does not raise any further questions. If every Monday evening around 8 p.m. l have to put the garbage on the side of the road, I can decide to complain about it every week again and again.
The realization that this makes no sense and that I would only hurt myself with that complaint creates a form of resignation. So I accept that I - and not my girlfriend - have to put the garbage bags outside.
How does acceptance work?
When I walk out the front door in the morning, there is a small hedge that I have to pass first. I planted that hedge myself, and it turns red in the winter to turn green again in the spring. I am aware that the hedge is there, but it doesn't bother me.
I don't mind; it's not annoying, also not particularly exciting, and certainly not overwhelming. That hedge is just a hedge standing there. Now that is full acceptance! The hedge may be in scent and color as the hedge thinks it looks good.
How does tolerance work?
When I then step into my car, it takes exactly 4 minutes before I get on the highway. The road to the highway has a limit of 30 miles per hour and very occasionally, an old lady or sleepy businessman drives in front of me at a speed of 20 miles per hour.
That always takes me an extra 2 minutes before I can get stuck in a traffic jam for an hour on the highway. Strangely enough, that annoys me because that person is allowed to drive a little faster so that I don't lose 2 minutes of my precious time.
Because I know that swearing and honking make no sense, in such a case I turn up the radio a little bit and start singing along loudly. I do not accept the situation, but I tolerate that there are people who have yet to learn that the throttle is on the right.
Tolerating or accepting yourself
It can be more difficult when it comes to self-acceptance. You would have preferred a slightly different nose, and the world would look different if that one thing hadn't happened to you. If you are already adept at tolerating yourself, you will stay on your way to the highway with a restless feeling in your lower abdomen.
Only one more thing needs to happen, and the music has to be even louder. You want to destroy all demons - like those slow riders - with a bazooka, but you know there is nothing you can do about it. By only tolerating, you create a small time bomb of yourself. There always remains that little voice that says "If only it had been that way" or "If only I had done this or that".
If you could look at yourself from a distance with all your perfect and imperfect qualities, backgrounds, and thoughts, you could come to the following realization to truly accept yourself:
Accept the cards of life that are given to you
Everyone is born with a set of cards. Some have a good hand and others a lesser one. It is not about what cards you have but how you play your cards. That the other person has better cards says nothing about how much fun you can get from the game of life. Accept that you will have to deal with these cards because you will not get others.