Workshop: Acceptance the Pathway to Peace

Karla Downling is an award-winning best-selling author, speaker, Bible study teacher, licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of Change My Relationship. Karla’s passion is to see individuals, marriages, and families set free from the chains of dysfunction, scriptural misunderstanding, and emotional pain personally and relationally. Her messages provide practical solutions based on biblical truths that bring balance and clarity to life and relationship issues. She also desires to equip ministry leaders and lay counselors to reach out more effectively to those that are struggling with difficult relationships. Karla’s website is

karladowning: Ok. Let’s start off with a definition of acceptance. It is “taking or receiving what is offered, giving approval, believing, or accepting. It is putting out your open hand and allowing the thing or circumstance or person to be put into it and then closing your hand and pulling it toward you. The meaning of “accept” is “to receive as adequate; to receive with approval or favor; to take or receive.”

The opposite of acceptance is refusal or disapproval. It is like putting out your hand and pushing it away. think about your life and the things you don’t want; don’t like; struggle with accepting. Are you opening your hand to receive them or pushing them away? I know for myself that I pushed them away for years and struggled with refusing to accept them. It took lots of energy.

We have to accept the big and little things. Of course the big things are harder. Loss of plans, dreams, hopes, relationships, health, material things. I am practical so let’s see what it really means to accept by first looking at what acceptance doesn’t mean.

Acceptance isn’t passive. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have any responsibility to do your part.

Each of us is responsible for actively participating in our lives. God will hold us accountable for what we did with what we are given. Next, it doesn’t mean that you tolerate everything.

Acceptance isn’t resignation to whatever life and people throw your way. You have a responsibility to be salt and light and confront what is wrong and to protect yourself.

Next, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have feelings or opinions about the circumstances. God gave us the ability to feel and to think. We need to work through the things in our life in order to get to acceptance. That means we need to process our feelings and pay attention to our thoughts.

Next, it doesn’t mean you don’t struggle with acceptance for a while before you can do it. It is okay to admit when we are struggling and when things are hard. Acceptance is the final step of the grieve process. We have to work through the anger, denial, sadness, and bargaining stages before we get to acceptance. The important thing is that we finally get there.

Next, it doesn’t mean that you can’t still want things to be different. We have desires and hopes. It is okay to admit that those weren’t realized or that we don’t like what we have to accept. Next, it doesn’t work only for the things you don’t have. The Apostle Paul learned to accept what he had and what he didn’t have. Some of us struggle with accepting even good things because we believe we don’t deserve them. At this point, I would like a little discussion on what acceptance doesn’t mean. Any thoughts? Done.

Moderator.: !
I love how you rounded out acceptance as well as what not accepting is. I think we tend to see acceptance in very personal ways to each individual have you found that?

karladowning: I agree. It is very personal because it is our lives and some of the things are difficult like relationships. I can go on with the next section.Moderator.: any questions?

Participant #1 : !
TY Karla, I have gotten to the 3rd stage of the grieving process

karladowning: Bargaining?

Participant #1 : but i feel that I’m somehow stuck at “sadness”; i have yet to bargain, but since my dad passed away from a heart attack just before Christmas 2013, i have felt that I’m “stuck in a rut” here in that stage. How or when will i know that I’m “out” of it, and can move on?

karladowning: Sadness. Sadness takes a while because that is where we have to grieve all the loss. I think we always miss those that are important to us. But if you are stuck in that rut, I would look at what your Dad did for you or symbolized to you that you feel you have lost and ask you what you have difficulty doing without him. Does any of that ring true?

Participant #1 : yes, really does. thanks

karladowning: You have to pick up the responsibility to go forward without him and do it on your own. If that is hard, focus on overcoming that.

Participant #1 : 🙂

karladowning: We talked about acceptance is not. Now lets’ talk about what acceptance does mean. You surrender to the facts of the situation and stop trying to fight them internally by simply accepting reality. This is taking life on life’s terms. You change the things you can. You do what is right and necessary, including standing up to injustice and sin. You continue to strive for what is best and better. You get acceptance through the grieve process. You surrender to God not the circumstances, trusting Him no what what and accepting His provision as sufficient.

karladowning: Here are some examples of active acceptance. Jesus exemplified active acceptance in the Garden of Gethsemane. He admitted His soul was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” He asked God three times to take the cup away, but told God He was willing if there was no other way. He struggled through the grief process, even showing sadness and bargaining, then accepted God’s answer. Seeking medical treatment for an illness. This is active acceptance. If you or someone you care about is ill, you do what you can do to get healing. You go to the doctor and pray and ask God to heal. While you are doing these things, you accept that you are sick You do what you can to make things better while accepting what you have.

karladowning: The third example is the Apostle Paul in prison. Paul was arrested many times. He resigned himself to suffering for the gospel and was willing to die for it. Yet, when he was arrested, he reminded the jailers that he was a Roman citizen and improperly held. This shows it is okay to act in self-protective ways and not just passively accept what comes our way.

karladowning: The fourth example is Peter and the apostles when told not to speak about Jesus. There is a time to resist what is wrong, whether it is the government or people. Peter and the apostles were told in Acts 5 not to speak about Christ and they said, NO! We will obey God before man. In the Old Testament, Queen Vashti said no to her drunken husband when he asked her to parade herself in front of him and his guests at a drunken feast. She lost her position as queen as a result, but she didn’t care. she didn’t accept his dictate because it was wrong. King David is one of my favorite examples. He sinned with Bathsheba and as a result, the child she was carrying would die.

David knew what Nathan the prophet told him, but he didn’t accept it and asked God to change his mind. He prayed and prayed and refused to eat until the child died. His servants were afraid to tell him. But when they did, he got up and dressed and bathed and ate. He accepted the outcome and then began to live his life. He did what he could and then moved on. This helps me with acceptance of what my children went through because I stayed in a dysfunctional marriage. It is hard to accept that I damaged them. But I have to and live my life to the best of my ability today.

karladowning: The next example is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. The king was going to throw them into the furnace for not worshipping the false image. They said, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he doesn’t. we want you to know, we will not serve your gods.” So they accepted the circumstance, but still asked God to save them. I love this because it shows how we can accept and surrender while still asking God to save us if it is his will. Active acceptance for me in my marriage meant accepting some of the things I didn’t like about my husband, letting go of some of my ideals and dreams, focusing on changing myself and setting some boundaries. Passive acceptance is like responding to life as a jellyfish. This isn’t what God has in mind. For example, you get sick and don’t go to the doctor or take medicine. Or you don’t look for a job when you lose yours. Don’t attempt to better yourself. Active acceptance accepts the paradox of being content with the way things are now, yet striving for what is best or better.

karladowning: What blocks us from acceptance? Holding on to our own expectations.
Stuck in the “if onlys.” Comparing ourselves to others. Denial, Self pity and martyrdom. Lack of trust in God. A refusal to surrender to the reality of your circumstances results in wasted time and energy. Inability to change what you can and no peace or rest. Acceptance results in a closer relationship with God, better relationships with others, freedom to change the things you can, and peace by entering God’s rest.

karladowning: Questions for discussion: What have you been resisting? Any input? Done

Participant #2: !
Not sure how to word this….but one of the big things I’ve not been accepting is myself.

karladowning: That’s a big one.

Participant #2: Seems like I don’t know ….when I try to be “good to myself” I accuse myself of being lazy…..but when I do (and do) I find myself caught in a trap of doing not being…..the biggest thing I’ve been working on lately is gratitude. Where it says be content in all things. I’ve grown a LOT. Come out of two abusive marriages…(my third was a gift from God) thank goodness….but I”m a widow retired now and I don’t know…

karladowning: That is an old message most likely from past relationships including childhood. The thought that you shouldn’t be lazy or take care of yourself.

Participant #2: seems like I’m always “on my back” about something. yes Karla… I’m sure… from my childhood.

karladowning: The critical voices we hear are not who we really are. It is old tapes. We have to talk back to them. Tell them that it isn’t true. God wants us to take care of ourselves. He told the men in Ephesians that they were to love their wives like their own bodies. The assumption that we should care for ourselves is there: “After all, who doesn’t care for their own body?” I love that example because it proves God expects us to care for ourselves. Any one else struggling with acceptance?

Moderator.: !
Participant #3.: !

karladowning: Go ahead Moderator

Moderator.: the critical voices actively came into my life and can still come so it makes sense they must actively go out.

karladowning: You have to recognize the voice and then resist it by countering. That is taking our thoughts captive.

Go ahead Participant #3
Participant #3: ty. As a survivor of abuse from early childhood into early adulthood, I wasn’t in touch with myself ..didn’t know my feelings or thoughts. I see the tie in as you shared … with acceptance and the ability to set healthy boundaries for myself. Is that correct?

karladowning: Yes. You can do both at the same time. Some people think they have to accept whatever comes passively but they don’t. Acceptance simply means accepting the facts of the situation rather than fighting and denying it and then deciding what to do about it. That means you can accept what is going on and then decide what boundaries you need to set.
Any other thoughts?

Participant #2: !
As you were talking in the very beginning about what acceptance is not, it occurred to me that….it has a lot more to do with my inner dialogue, than any outer situation. I don’t have to be a doormat, but I do have to accept reality. It’s about truth. I need to accept truth but not helplessness.

karladowning: Good point. I like that. That’s a great way to sum it up. I am going to add that to my notes.

Moderator.: !
We hear a lot about powerlessness in recovery circles, but i do not think helplesssness is not the same

karladowning: No. It isn’t. Powerlessness is the inability to make something happen. We accept that we are powerless over addictions, people, places and things. We can’t make them change. We are not helpless to manage our own lives with GOd’s help. We are not expected to be helpless. We are stewards over our own lives. We have to be faithful stewards and if we are helpless, we are not good stewards.

karladowning: Any other comments??

Participant #2: !
What is it I’ve heard in meetings….my acceptance is in direct proportion to my expectations…. the biggest thing that helps me is to…keep my eyes on the Lord as much as possible…. truly turning my will and life over to Him…sometimes on a minute by hour basis.

ALSO…I’ve been copy pasting the transcript (we can’t log) and am formatting it to easier read. I’ll send it to you if you like for overview…..would love to have Obie post it on the boards with your permission.

karladowning: That’s awesome.That would be fine. Please take a minute to check out my website. I have a free devotional subscription. It gives you lots of great ideas that support recovery. I also have books and studies that are really helpful. Thank you for having me. Acceptance is an important topic for me.

Moderator.: this has been an excellent Meeting!
Participant #2: Thank you Karla for being with us today!! It has been a great topic and sharing.
Participant #3: it’s great ..ty for having it

Moderator.: we close in prayer. Would you karla?
karladowning: Okay. Can I write out the long version of the serenity prayer
Moderator.: sure
Participant #2: perfect

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will.
That I may be reasonably happy in this life;
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.
Moderator.: amen
Participant #3: amen…AMEN
Participant #2: Amen