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Redefining 'Acceptance' vs. 'I Don't Care'

Lately, I have found some new clarity and freedom in realizing that there is a difference between accepting the other person for who and what they are, and honestly concluding that I don't care what they do or say.
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Lately, I have found some new clarity and freedom in realizing that there is a difference between accepting the other person for who and what they are, and honestly concluding that I don't care what they do or say. When we accept the person for what they are, we might not like what they are doing, not approve and therefore hold resentments. For example, I don't like the fact that one of my daughters is basically lazy and, though she loves me, takes little or no interest in my life. My other daughter is very rigid and doesn't roll with the punches very easily, and would rather opt out of an activity than do something that she doesn't want to do. But both are my daughters, and though I'm disappointed about this, I accept it and find other avenues that we can be compatible in.

But acceptance can also breed resentment. And it is how we handle that resentment that can possibly get us into trouble. Resentment can fester and kind of grow like a virus inside of us if left unchecked. I have found it helpful to hit my pause button when I feel that resentment growing and otherwise may suddenly explode from being contained for too many years or through too many trials and tribulations.

You can't un-ring a bell, and if our mouths act faster than our minds, the result may be a deep wound to the relationship -- sometimes repairable, sometimes not. So when we accept another's person personality foibles that we are not comfortable with, here are a few mental checklists to consider:

  1. Is this in the person's characteristics or are he/she having a bad day?

  • Would saying something fall on deaf ears and then a stronger resentment prevail between the two of you?
  • Consider the source. Maybe this person is struggling with jealousy about your life or is pompous and arrogant to cover up some insecurity.
  • Be grateful that you don't have to deal with this person on a daily basis. If your visits are infrequent, then you have a specific plan as to how much time you need to spend before that pimple starts to fester from anxiety.
  • Be prepared for the action that causes your resentment to continue. I know we all want to hope that tomorrow will be different, but if our expectations are at ground zero, then we can just say "oh well" in our mind and move on.
  • The "I don't care" state of mind is very different from acceptance. It is truly a place where one is comfortable with whatever actions or dialogue presents itself or not. The "I don't care" is not meant to be punishing, cruel or "I'll show you," but truly a place of neutrality that permeates our thinking.

    An example of this is that recently I have been spending time with a loved one who has been in and out of recovery. As he says, he has been in recovery for 17 years, though it hasn't been consistent. Our times together have been easy and comfortable. For the first time, I am not holding my breath waiting for the proverbial other shoe of relapse to fall. For the first time, I don't care whether he is clean or sober. It's his business, not mine.

    Someone asked me the other day what I would do if he relapsed again. My answer was not full of dread or fear, but calm and neutral. I would implement my boundaries of spending time with a clean and sober person of six months and start the clock ticking again, leaving the candle in the window burning for yet another recovery process.

    The best thing about the "I don't care" mental state is that there are no resentments or trying to mold the other person into what we want them to be or do. It's not meant to be dismissive or mean; it's just a very calm effect that comes over us and therefore takes the pressure off of some relationships.

    There is a difference between "I don't care" and "who cares what he/she does or what happens." Usually, the "who cares what he or she does" is said out of our resentment toward that person or that person's actions. It is viewed as a flippant, angry posture that can make others around us uncomfortable or think we are not being supportive.

    It's a fine line between acceptance, "I don't care" and "who cares." Think about some of the people in your life and what category they fall in. Accept without resentment, don't care because it's not in your power to change what that person or the even the outside world does, and leave the sharp edges of the "who cares" mindset in a shoebox deep in a closet.

    I promise that if you can honestly say, with a smile on your face and a calm inner demeanor, "I don't care, as it's not about me, but about them," then you will feel light and less burdened with s***.

    If I can be of service, please visit my website and I invite you to explore my book Reclaim Your Life - You and the Alcoholic/Addict. It can be purchased through PayPal or at Amazon. In addition, my book is available as an audio through PayPal only.

    For more by Carole Bennett, MA, click here.

    For more on emotional wellness, click here.