Acceptance is an act of faith. It can be seen as resignation, a step in the over-simplified diagram of grief, a passive shrug and “it is what it is.” However, this obscures a complex and profoundly beautiful dance in our minds and hearts, an intricate unfolding of realization. At least, that is what underlies my living definition of acceptance.
What is my definition then? That acceptance is the mindful recognition of some reality. It is a rooted understanding of an issue, lived experience, or outcome. It is a foundation for meaningful action. This is how I view acceptance.
Acceptance is not enough, but it is necessary. It is a significant step forward. It is worth striving for true acceptance, as it guides more informed and respectful actions with greater chances of addressing actual needs and respecting actual experiences.
I am speaking – figuratively – as a minimally-speaking autistic person. I am not particularly enthused about “autism awareness” in the traditional sense1. It has done very little for me, because it is not rooted in true awareness and it is not aimed at future acceptance. It is rather an outdated, outsider view of a complex, rich reality. It is awareness driven by misinformation and bias and disrespect. It is propaganda.
How can we move toward acceptance with true awareness? That is a complicated answer with simple overarching guidelines: mindfulness, empathy, and humility. Anything we do should be informed by these three ways of thinking. And that will yield so much understanding and compassion!
So, for me, I hope for awareness of my humanity, and acceptance of my rights and dignity. Big events and feel-good propaganda and statements about autism as a disease to be eliminated are not awareness in the true sense. But taking time to pay attention to actual autistic voices, and taking energy to integrate what they share with you in how you view and treat them, is moving toward awareness that informs acceptance.
I haven’t yet explained how acceptance is an act of faith. It is an act of giving your best efforts and intentions and energy to opening your heart and mind to new and possibly uncomfortable understanding and confronting your own biases. It is the right thing to do, but that doesn’t mean it is automatic. It takes effort and offers possibly no tangible reward or recognition. We work toward awareness and acceptance based on integrity and hope that they will lead to meaningful actions. We invest in cultivating awareness and acceptance, and have faith that it is the right thing to do.
1 For more on the shift from “Autism Awareness” month to Autism Acceptance month, and the important meaning behind it, read this piece from ASAN