Acceptance is important in life – especially now

It’s not long since we were making jokes about coronavirus, trusting it would all blow over

Acceptance or rejection? Acceptance opens the door to action and sometimes that action is life changing. Image: iStock

Acceptance is one of the most curious of human traits. I say curious because it sounds passive, like an attitude that would invite the world to walk all over you and then to wipe its boots on you for good measure.

Instead, it opens the door to action and sometimes that action is life changing. In other words, acceptance is not the passive noun that it appears to be. It’s an active verb.

Look, for instance, at that period of time when we were not really accepting that coronavirus had anything to do with us. Life went on, we made little jokes about shaking hands before shaking hands, and we trusted that it would all blow over.

Then, at some tipping point, most of us actually accepted that this thing was a real challenge in our own lives, that it was a very big and dangerous challenge and that life as we knew it could not continue uninterrupted.


Suddenly, everyone took action. Social events were sparsely attended or cancelled, and in Dublin city you could see the Luas going by with only one or two passengers, an eerie sight.

Acceptance led immediately to action because staying away is action, as is washing your hands, cancelling meetings and all the other measures we are having to take.

Acceptance has always been really powerful in people’s lives. The refusal or failure to accept has also been powerful. People who have a problem with drink or drugs but who are incapable of accepting it are in danger of going to an early grave and too many of us have followed their coffins to the cemetery.

People who accept that they have a problem are far more likely to begin the journey, sometimes a journey with many turns on the road, to recovery.

The same goes for careers. A good many of those who change their careers do so because of they accepted that where they were was not where they wanted to be. This is not to deny that others change careers because their work vanishes from under them. For many of them, too, acceptance is the first step towards picking up the pieces and fashioning a new life.

Abusive situation

You can, of course, go too far with it. You could “accept” that you will never get out of an abusive situation even though you could – though I would argue that accepting that the situation is abusive may yet set you on the road to escape.

Nor is acceptance always popular. Ignaz Semmelweis, the Hungarian who saved the lives of countless women by advocating that staff wash their hands and instruments with soap and chlorine during childbirth, was rejected by very large numbers of his colleagues and died of sepsis in an asylum, to which he had been committed, in 1865 following, it is thought, a beating by his guards.

The acceptance here, by the way, lay in his willingness to accept the conclusion, after investigating other possibilities, that poor hand hygiene was killing women and their babies and even some staff.

Many people still do not accept the reality of climate change. Those who do are sometimes denigrated by those who do not. But if the acceptance of climate change doesn’t become as convincing and as powerful to us as that of the seriousness of our current crisis, then what we are going through now may come to look like a stroll in the park.

Climate change

Note that the ones who accept climate change are often leading the rallying cry publicly or even in the home for the reality of climate change to be respected and acted upon. Once again, acceptance isn’t a matter of sitting quietly in the corner and letting the world get on with whatever it is that it wants to do.

Let’s hope for more – that our current crisis will lead additionally to an acceptance that we are not Superman and Superwoman, that solidarity will take the human race further than rampant “I’m okay, Jack” individualism, and even that kindness is better for our world than strutting around beating our chests.

– Padraig O’Morain (@PadraigOMorain) is accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. His latest book is Daily Calm. His daily mindfulness reminder is free by email (