The world is full of conflicting messages:
In order to be happy we need to learn to accept where we are.
But in order to be successful we need to focus on where we want to go.

It’s important to strive for the life we want.
But we’d all be a lot happier if we would just surrender to the life we have.

We shouldn’t have to settle.
But also, we shouldn’t have to hustle.

So what exactly are we supposed to do? Change our circumstances or accept them? Take life by the reins, or welcome it however it unfolds? Push back against our suffering or allow our pain to transform us?

The answer, I believe, is both.

Because the truth is, we can’t change our circumstances without first mastering our circumstances. We’ll never get there, if we refuse to learn what being here has to teach us. And we certainly won’t be able see tomorrow’s opportunity if we continue to treat today as nothing more than a means to an end.

So then, of course, comes the real question: How in the world do we accept our circumstances when our circumstances feel utterly unacceptable? I think we start by acknowledging, first, what acceptance is not:

Acceptance is not an endorsement of our pain.

It is not an exoneration of our perpetrators.

It is not a sanction, a statement of consent, or a stamp of approval upon the long list of challenges we’re struggling to overcome. 

Acceptance is our willingness to be attentive and fully present to our lives right where we are, so that we don’t miss the lessons, the connections, and the opportunities that will one day help us move beyond where we are.

Acceptance is a conscious choice, deeply rooted in our acknowledgement that to every thing, there is a season. It is the faith we muster to believe that even the things that cause us great pain are not without purpose. It is our willingness to shed the relationships, the titles, the ideas and the opportunities we’ve allowed to define us, in favor of whatever growth awaits us on the other side.

This, friends– we can do. And the truth is, we must. Because our circumstances were never meant to contain us forever.

And like cocoons that at one time served a vital purpose for our growth, they must eventually fall away in order for us to emerge transformed.