Accept vs Respect


Acceptance is an important idea in any eastern philosophy. It’s akin to surrendering to God in Christianity. Google defines it like this:


The action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered.

Zen-ish texts spend a lot of time talking about the importance of acceptance to enter the present moment fully. If you’re rejecting what is then it’s going to be awfully hard to enter into that elusive enlightenment we hear so much about. I think acceptance is a good idea that needs a tweak to match our new narratives for certain words.

We tend to use ‘accept’ in negative ways. When someone tells us to “just accept it” they are saying “it’s shitty and there’s nothing you can do about it so just deal with it”. It brings with it a sense of giving up

Jack Kerouac once gave writers advice, the most poignant for me was:

No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge

To me this means respect your experience.

Respect looks different than acceptance. When you respect what’s right in front of you it puts you in a more exciting posture that acceptance does. Acceptance can be misunderstood to mean sloth and white flags where respect gives the situation a more energetic attention – and allows us to paint a picture of a different future situation.

Respecting a situation means looking at it honestly and then deciding what to do with it. Acceptance, for me, creates a reluctant surrender.

Respecting a situation forces you to see the positives alongside the negatives. Acceptance often forgets the positive side of the thing.

Respect your situation exactly as it is.

Your situation is your experience and your experience is you. As you respect more of your experiences – thoughts, emotions, actions, interactions, relationships – you will have no choice but to feel an immense respect for yourself.

EDIT: The kickass /r/zen community at reddit had some interesting things to say about this article. przl_OM pointed out that, “when true meaning is grasped, the words are not important anymore to you. Otherwise someone might start to build something on the use of that particular word and decieve himself/herself that “only this one should be right””. He’s right. The only important thing is your primary experience regardless of the words you apply to it. Because we really on words to communicate with others and ourselves I find using more specific language helpful. It’s always aiming at that truth that can’t be put into words. Direct experience is all that matters – have that.

[Thanks to Dr hunter at for showing me this video.]