Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Words Matter: Approval vs Acceptance

I don't know about you, but I get pretty tired of words being kicked around outside of their proper context or actual meaning.  One of my least favorite things about the english language is that there is often much ambiguity.  Perhaps this is because we have failed, as a society, to seek to understand before seeking to be understood.  There is a whole lot of jumping to conclusions out there, and it really is not the way God intended for us to live.  In my experience, conclusions that I come to by jumping there usually lead to unnecessary conflict, division, burned bridges, hurt feelings...  (That is not to say that conflict only results when I jump to conclusions because there will always be conflict that is the result of truthful conclusions, as well...just wanted to clarify).

One word mix up where I commonly see this happening is between the words approval and acceptance.  These two words get interchanged when really they do not mean the same thing.

To approve: 1. to consider right or good; think or speak favorably of. 2. to consent to officially or formally; confirm or sanction

To accept: 1. to receive (something offered) with gladness. 2. to admit to a group, an organization, or a place.

In other words, when I approve of something, I am in agreement with that something or someone.  When I accept someone, I receive them whether or not I agree with them, and with gladness.

Many people are looking for acceptance, but they are focusing on the approval.  They feel that if their actions are not approved, then they are not accepted.  Many others feel pressured to approve of something they do not agree with feeling that if they do not approve that they will also not show acceptance toward the person involved.  Do you see how these words can get twisted?

This can be very dangerous and has happened in this country.  It is no longer socially acceptable to disagree.  Somehow agreeing to disagree has been replaced by just letting everyone do whatever they want to do without any discussion or debate and calling it tolerance.  What is tolerance anyway?

Tolerance: The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.

Notice that this definition, like the definition of acceptance, does not involve agreeing with these others or approving what these others do.  Likewise, it does not mean that these others who may disagree with me or even disapprove of what I do have to agree or approve.  Acceptance and tolerance really mean that we can agree to disagree.  Why is this such a problem nowadays?

I believe one reason is because often we/people don't really know what we believe.  I am most uncomfortable in a discussion or disagreement when I do not know what I believe or how to articulate what I believe.  I then have a choice to make.  Do I admit my ignorance humbly and act on gaining insight in order to better articulate what I believe or do I react in a defensive way and resort to argumentative and disrespectful tactics?  Really, this is a serious issue!  When it comes to knowing what you believe as a Christian, I highly recommend studies by Precept International, which will take you through the Bible, and a great little book called Culture Makers: A Worldview Approach to Re-engaging the World, by Josiah Vencel.

I do not approve of my daughter's enjoyment of knocking down her sister who has just learned how to walk.  However I do accept her and love her unconditionally.  I do not approve of the lifestyle my neighbors live, but I do accept them and love them unconditionally.  I do not approve of many of the decisions our president has made, but I accept him and trust the Lord because it is He who has raised him up to lead for a time (see Romans 13:1).

As I consider Easter, which is in only a couple of days, I am reminded of the fact that the Lord has accepted me although He does not approve of everything I do.  As I grow and mature as a follower of Christ I desire all the more to only do that which is approved by Him, but even when I fail from time to time I know that I am fully accepted by Him.  He loves me unconditionally.  He offers this love to all who will accept it.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) 

He hates sin.  He does not approve of it.  But He does accept me, a sinner.  What a glorious and profound truth for this recovering perfectionist.  Because of Christ's sacrifice, resurrection, and my calling on Him as my Lord and Savior (see Romans 10:9-13), I have this eternal love and acceptance to enjoy and rejoice in forever.  Hallelujah!

What are some ways you can show others your acceptance even when you don't approve?  Furthermore, do you know the reasons why you do not approve, and could you articulate them effectively in love and truth if and when God calls you to do this?

Happy Easter.

1 comment:

B said...

Great commentary on this subject Kristen. I'm in total agreement with your observations.