A few days ago I went to my bank and found a teller ready and waiting for me.  The sign at his station said “April.”  I said, “Are you April?” He answered “Yes.”  I asked, “What month were you born in?”  and he answered “April.”  I said “I love it!” and the rest of the day tried to figure out what I loved about it.  What I’ve come up with if that April seemed to be  at peace with his name.  Whether that has always been the case, I have no way of knowing.   But now he seems comfortable with being a man named April.

When kids are in kindergarten and the teacher addresses her students as Tahini, or Zucchini, or Djong, or Sam or Keesha and the kid responds the others just accept that that is their name.  They have no way of knowing whether it is a “regular” name or a foreign name or otherwise unusual.  They just don’t have the data base for deciding.  By fourth or fourfth grade they might begin to question various names.  Did your mother name you after a vegetable?  Don’t you know Jean is a girl’s name?  The situation could lead to ridicule or bullying if the child already thinks his name is strange and doesn’t want to be different.    The same situation arises if the kid has red hair, or a big scar, or a lisp or any number of oddities.  They have trouble fitting in, especially if others seem not to like the difference.    Fortunately some schools make a special effort to help children be accepting of the differences in others, pointing out the some differences are obvious and others not as easily recognized.  What a wonderful opportunity for teaching the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Empathy CAN be understood and taught.

But perhaps it is easier to teach others to accept the differences in their acquaintances than it is to accept the differences in themselves.  I think it has to do with pride.  We all want to be “special” but special in a good way, in a way that is better than others.   When we are ashamed  of how we are we are not in a good place.  A wise person once wrote, “we are as sick as our secrets.”  It is with good reason that the 12 Steps  of AA  ask  us to admit our failings to another, ask to be able to see what can be changed and what cannot be changed, and ask for the wisdom to know the difference.

Being comfortable with ourselves does not mean there is  not room for improvement.  It just means that for the time being we are OK with the status quo.  When we have loved (accepted) how we are it is easier to accept (love) others as they are.  Mutual acceptance makes bullying difficult. It has been well said that you can’t get someone else’s goat if they have no goat to get.

Years ago I was given an article on acceptance which is the best I’ve ever seen on the subject.  I am not keen on retyping this two-page, single-spaced piece  but will at least start.



One of the deepest needs of the human heart is the need to be appreciated. Every human being wants to be valued.  This is not to say that everybody wants to be told by others how wonderful he is.  No doubt there is that desire, too, but that is not fundamental.  We could say that every human being wants to be loved.  But even this admits of ambiguity.  There are as many varieties of love as there are species of flowers.  For some people love is passionate; for others it is something romantic; for others love is something merely sexual.  There is, however, a deeper love, a love of acceptance.   Every human being craves to be accepted, accepted for what he is.  Nothing in human life has such a lasting and fatal effect as the experience of not being completely accepted. When I am not accepted, then something in me is broken.  A baby who is not welcome is ruined at the roots of his existence.  A student who does not feel accepted by his teacher will not learn.  A man who does not feel accepted by his colleages on the job will suffer from ulcers and be a nuisance at home.  Many of the life histories of prisoners reveal that somewhere along the way they went astray because there was no one who really accepted them.  Likfeise, when a religious does not feel accepted by her community, she cannot be happy.  A life without acceptance is a life in which a most basic human need goes unfilled.
Acceptance means that the people with whom I live give me a feeling of self-respect, a feeling that I am worthwhile.  They are happy that I am who I am  Acceptance means that I am welcome to be myself.   Acceptance means that though there is need for growth, I am not forced.  I do  not have to be the person I am not, neither am I locked in by my past or present.  Rather I am given room to unfold, to outgrow the mistakes of the past.  In a way we can say that acceptance is an unveiling   Everyone of us is born with many potentialities  But unless they are drawn out by the warmth touch of another’s acceptance, they will remain dormant.  Acceptance liberates everything that is in me.  Only when I am loved in that deep sense of complete acceptance can I become myself.  The love, the acceptance of other persons makes me the unique person that I am meant to be.  When a person is appreciated for what he does, he is not unique; someone else can do that same thing, perhaps even better than he.  But when a person is loved for what he is, then he becomes a unique and irreplaceable personality.  So indeed, I need that acceptance in order to be myself.  When I am not accepted, I am a nobody, I cannot come to fulfillment. An accepted person is a happy person because he is opened up, because he can grow.

To accept a person does not mean that I deny his defects, that I gloss over them or try to explain them away.  Neither does acceptance mean to say that everything the person does is beautiful and fine.  Just the opposite is true. When I deny the defects of the person, then I certainly do not accept him.  I have not touched the depth of that person.  Only when I accept a person can I truly face his defects.

To express it in a negative way:  acceptance means that I never give a person the feeling that he doesn’t  count.  Not to expect anything from a person is tantamount to killing him, making him sterile.  He cannot do anything.  It is said that children with rickets scratch lime from the walls.  People who are not accepted scratch from the walls. And what are the symptoms?

– Boasting:  in a subtle or obvious way they provide themselves with the praise they want so badly.

– Rigidity:  a lack of acceptance causes a lack of security in the path of life and, a fortiori, lack of courage to risk one step to either side of the path.

– Inferiority complex:  This simply defines the above conditions.

– Promiscuity or any other superficial joy:  deep down there is so much lacking that they endeavor to get whatever they can out of life in an easy way.

– The desire to assert themselves, the frightful power to impose themselves, the excessive need for attention, the tendency to feel threatened, to exaggerate, to gossip, to suspect others:  these are other symptoms of lack of acceptance.


I am accepted by God as I am– as I am, not as I should be.  To proclaim the latter is an empty message because I am never as I should be.  I know that is reality.  I do not walk a straight path.  There are many curves, many wrong decisions which in the course of life have brought me to where I am today, and God tells me that “the place on which you stand is holy ground.” (Ex.3:5) God knows my name. “See, I have carved you on the palms of my hands.”  (Is. 49:16)  God can never look at his hand without seeing my name. And my name – that’s me!  He guarantees that I can be my self.  St. Augustine says, “A friend is someone who knows everything about you and still accepts you.”  That is the dream we all share, that one day I will meet the person to whom I can really talk, who understands me and the words I say, who listens and can even hear what is left unsaid, and then really accepts me.  God is the fulfillment of this dream.  He loves me with my ideals and disappointments, my sacrifices and my joys, my successes and my failures.  God is himself the deepest ground of my being.  It is one thing to know I am accepted, and another thing to realize it.  It is not enough to have just once touched the love of God.  There is more required to build one’s life on God’s love.  It takes a long time to believe I am accepted by God as I am.

How often have we been told that it is important that we love God?  And this is true. But it is far more important that God loves us!  Our love for God is secondary.  God’s love for us is first.  “This is the love I mean, not our love for God but God’s love for us.”  (1 John 4:10).   This is the foundation.  Karl Rahner once made the remark that we live in a time where there is much interest in Church politics, (e.g., the pill, the reform of the curia, celibate priesthood.)  This may be a sign of a deep faith.  It can also be a sign of a lack of faith.  The basic faith is that I know myself to be accepted by God.  “We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves.” The whole Apostles Creed is nothing but a statement twelves times over in belief in  this very love which God has for us.

On the night before he died, Jesus prayed to the Father, “that you love them as you loved me . . so that your love for me may live in them.” (John 17:23, 26)  It seems incredible that God loves us just as much as he loves his Son, Jesus Christ.  Yet that is exactly what scripture says.  We human beings are divided in many ways:  (1) in time, for us one minute comes after another and our time is spread out. It is not so with God. God lives always in one ever present now.  There is no division.  Eternity means that the whole of time is condensed in one moment that lasts forever; (2) in space.  We have certain limited extensions.  It is not so with God.  God is completely one; (3) in love.  We are divided in our love.  We like a person very much (90%), or in an ordinary way(50%), or very little (20%).  God does not measure love.  God cannot but love totally (100%).  If we think God is a person who can divide his love, then we are thinking not of God but of ourselves.  God is perfectly one, the perfect unity.  We have love, but God is love.  His love is not an activity.  It is his whole self.  If we but grasp some idea of this, we understand that God could not possibly give 100% of his love to his Son and then 70% to us.  He would not be God if he could do that.  When we read the dialogues of Saint Catherine of Siena we get the impression that God has nothing to do but occupy himself with Catherine. And that is right.  The undivided attention of God is with her and with each of us.

It looks like I did it.  Trying to understand it.