I Accept Who You Are, Not What You Do writes Rabbi Laibl Wolf

September 19, 2014 by Rabbi Laibl Wolf
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‘Accept me the way I am.’ The new pseudo-psychological ‘mantra’ that can excuse any kind of impoliteness and insensitivity. No worries. Just go right ahead. Be boorish, self-centred, and downright rude.

Rabbi Laibl Wolf

Rabbi Laibl Wolf

That’s fine. I am a very accepting person. I’m ok – you’re ok. But are you really ok?

‘Acceptance’ is often a veil behind which hides a lazy and non-caring person who adopts a posture of self-righteousness, staring down any accusation of character blemish, and throwing down the gauntlet of compassion: accept me as I am, otherwise it’s you who is at fault, not me.

What does ‘acceptance’ really mean? At one end of the spectrum is ‘ I accept that you are a selfish individual and suggest you do something about it’. At the other end is ‘I accept you, warts and all’. In the former, ‘acceptance’ is being used as recognition of the fact – your silliness the result of immaturity: I recognise you to be an egotistic prima donna. In the latter, it is a statement of love affirming that your shortcomings will in no way affect my bond with you.

Whether ‘acceptance’ is correctly applied depends more on he who seeks acceptance rather than he who confers it. Should the request be forthcoming from a sulking, accusative, belligerent teenager, chances are that it’s really a plea for love and should be responded to with loving non-acceptance. Should it emanate from a feeling of terror of facing an audience, it deserves the compassion of true acceptance. Context does count.

I have just completed my lecture tour of S. Africa and am on my way back to Australia as I write these words. One of the lesser desirable features of South African political and social climate is its acceptance of corruption. Corruption exists breathtakingly across society and administration, ranging from the President’s sycophant appointments of cronies, through to the Police Commissioner tipping off an associate commissioner about imminent charges of police racketeering and fraud, through to the cop demanding a bribe to drop the ‘speeding’ charge. Or it may find its expression in the public response yesterday of a senior executive of a failed major bank, himself now a multi millionaire, responding to the plight of the poor who lost their money, with the words: “f*** them”. Or acceptance of the government’s ill advised affirmative action program creating a cadre of excess lawyers, with many female graduates being reduced to pouring the tea and used as sexual lures for potential customers. All this – a sad obituary to the optimism and self-sacrifice of Nelson Mandela.

What struck me most was the fatalism – the acceptance – by the black South African community that this is the way. One must never accept anything else than a quest for equal and deserved opportunity for all people. Acceptance of evil corruption is an albatross around the neck of a country’s future.

“I am bad because society made me that way” is simply unacceptable. The fact that you rationalise your shortcomings tells me you know the difference between right and wrong. You are bad because you chose it, with eyes wide open, attracted by its darker lures, and seeking its thrills and ego satisfaction. You got caught up with a pitiful acceptance of a distorted norm of society.

I accept that you have erred. But I don’t accept the errant behaviour.

  • Rabbi Laibl Wolf, Dean, Spiritgrow – The Josef Kryss Center, Australia

Comments

One Response to “I Accept Who You Are, Not What You Do writes Rabbi Laibl Wolf”
  1. Eleonora Mostert says:

    Dear Rabbi Laibl Wolf,
    Do you by any chance have a book published?
    Where can I purchase them.
    My sponge of a brain can’t get enough of your wisdom.

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