Acceptance. A perception of being a part of something, as in taken in, wanted, and/or desired in company, belonging, or gathered with the whole. Simple and paradoxically complex.
I’ve not talked with, observed, or heard of anyone who did not want to be accepted. Of course there are places, people, and things we want no part of. Yet, in every culture and cohort, each individual searches for their place, their tribe; whether on a large scale or small scale, we look for belonging.
People with Down Syndrome are no different in this regard as they are no different in many other factors of being. They look for the places, people, and things into which they fit, where they engage, and to those which accept them.
Some people with Downs, many in my experience, are quite outgoing. Others are more reserved. Some experience self-doubt, often the result of bullying, or a sense of being outcast. Some exude a level of self-confidence the likes of which change the energy in a room from dull to vibrant. Some are somewhere in between. Regardless, each wants what we all want – to belong.
This is not difficult to understand or accept, as it were.
However, seemingly, acceptance can be difficult to put into action.
Consider this: As in most of life’s journey, acceptance needs to begin with our acceptance of self. Begin at the beginning and go from there. Naturally, we are all Created by our Creator. Yet, not everyone accepts that and, even for those who do cognitively, in heart and soul fallness and imperfection hold at bay the fullest acceptance of self because of an awareness of our fallible natures. Then, for others, those who are rude, crude, and people burdened with their own insecurities and inferiority complexes, demonstrations of rejection, poor conduct, and projections of derogatory remarks, passively or aggressively, act to belittle another’s place, person, or item of possession, once or repeatedly, in an attempt to squash someone else’s self-acceptance while believing that such behavior will increase their own self-acceptance and acceptance among others. Acceptance reduced, broken, or shattered can only perpetuate more doubt, insecurity, and sense of isolation.
Once damaged, repair toward self-acceptance must begin again. And, holding on to self-acceptance, that knowledge that, regardless of someone else’s lack, I’m acceptable as I am, requires strong conviction in innate worth. Few possess such humble confidence . . . it must be developed and grown.
How do we teach this to our self let alone our kids and especially to our kids who have Down Syndrome who have been bullied, marginalized, or led to believe the lie that because they are different they are unacceptable?
Honestly, for all of the books and studies in human development I’ve read on Down Syndrome, “normal” human development, psychology, ministry, and counseling, for all of my life’s experiences raising my sons, advocating for those who are disabled, and for those abused, I find the best teacher of acceptance is in the act of acceptance or lack thereof.
I either accept who I am or I don’t. I either gather into myself that which is good for my mind, body, and soul or I don’t. I either belong where I am, take in what is, and am a part of something I agree with or I don’t. I either like me, accept me, or I don’t. And, in my acceptance of self or my rejection of self, my allowances for other’s acceptance or rejection of me and perceptions thereof are determined and I am all the more affected by as much one way or another.
I’ve learned this most from my son; actually from both of my sons.
Much as my oldest is outgoing and confident, he wants others to accept him. Yet, in his own defined acceptance of self, being okay in his own being, rejection and ridicule, while rare, hurt, but did not define or determine his level of acceptance of self and, consequently of others. He accepts even some of the most difficult people as they are, with an open concern for their wellbeing, and definitely without false pretense. There is a rare person who has crossed my son’s path that he did not politely acknowledge, hug, and bless. For those few he did not accept, I’m certain, there was just cause and reason simply because my son’s intuition is to accept all as they are, God’s Children. Draw your own conclusions from there.
His brother, my youngest, more introverted, still exuded confidence. He knows himself. He considers himself and is able to express his self-acceptance in a way that he accepts others, acknowledges them, for who they are. Possibly, this talent shown is the result of being brothers with someone who has Down Syndrome. Perhaps God Blessed me with sons who were able to withstand the onslaught of peer pressures. Or, they simply knew, that for all of our individual limitations and faults, we are who we are – works in progress doing our best to be who we are; which is acceptable.
We cannot change others. We can only change ourselves. Accepting that as true also encourages us to accept others for who they are and decide if who they are is acceptable to us and respond or react accordingly. And, in that, response and reaction, a discussion for another time blossoms . . . Living up from Downs