I recently heard a discussion on acceptance or approval and being able to know the difference. Admittedly, I have never really given it much thought, but there is a subtle difference and understanding it is very important in today’s world.
In today’s world these terms have become interchangeable although they mean very different things. You see acceptance does not mean approval. What??? Yes, that’s correct. These two terms are not dependent on each other or equal. This is one reason why we see so many people becoming easily offended. They desire acceptance but are often pursuing approval. If approval isn’t achieved, it is then mistaken as a personal rejection (i.e., not accepted).
Acceptance vs. Approval
More often than not, acceptance refers to identity. In practice, it looks like unconditional love. Accepting someone with all their faults and flaws is one of the greatest acts of kindness we can offer to others. It recognizes our likeness as human beings not necessarily our likeness of behavior or ideas.
Approval on the other hand is agreement with behavior and/or choices. And this is where people get confused and defensive. I can offer acceptance to a person even though I may not approve of their thoughts, ideas or actions.
We all desire to be accepted and not rejected, however, it is not a realistic expectation that everyone approve of everything that we do. While we are free to express ourselves and our ideas and opinions, we cannot demand that everyone agree with us as well.
This is where defensiveness and the victim mentality often starts. It begins with the thought that if everyone doesn’t approve of my ideas then they are not accepting me. This kind of thinking leaves no room for disagreement and discussion . And, without differing thoughts and ideas, there is also no room for growth.
There is so much division in our world today politically, socially and economically. I certainly don’t presume to have all of the answers, but I do know that answers can be found when everyone is willing to come to the table with a “win/win” mindset.
Acceptance brings us together where approval of ideas can be negotiated. When we approach life seeking the best for everyone then we all “win”. I hope to be a little more wise in how I approach acceptance or approval in practice and in my own thinking.
As women with some “life experience”, may we be quick to offer grace and sharpen one another in fellowship and community.