Acceptance vs Approval

There’s a big debate going on around the world about acceptance and being non-judgemental. We are told that we have to accept people, even ourselves, for what they, or we, are.

I’ve always struggled with this concept. Here in Britain, for example, there have been several court cases revolving around discrimination against people’s chosen lifestyle. Yet allowing one section of society to exercise their rights usually ends up trampling on someone else’s.

Consider the case of a religious person who runs an hotel and refuses to accommodate a homosexual couple. So the couple has the free will to choose their lifestyle. But in doing so, are they allowed to trample on the rights of the person with strong religious feelings about who he allows into his home?

I often see this in car parks. Most car parks, these days have a section for disabled people and another for parents with children. Then I heard a case of disabled people parking in the child spaces because the disabled spaces were all full. That was viewed as acceptable. Yet when a parent parked in a disabled bay, it was unacceptable. Is this some form of negative discrimination and trampling on each other’s rights?

So we come to the idea of acceptance. I was once asked how I would feel if one of my children announced that he of she was homosexual. (I don’t use the term gay. I’m old enough to have been brought up with the correct meaning of gay being happy.) My answer was that I would accept it as his or her decision. Does that mean I approve? Not necessarily. I have my own conscience. And none of us has the right to impose our conscience on anyone else. I also have to make a judgement as to whether it is a safe option.

The same goes for the non-medical use of addictive drugs. I may accept people’s right to choose that lifestyle, but my judgement may tell me not to approve of it because of the dangers involved. And I may encourage people to give up that life because of those dangers.

Let’s get this clear. Acceptance does not demand approval. We accept that everyone has free will. But we also have a responsibility to be safe and to ensure that others are safe. And that requires a judgement call.

So where does this lead us? It means that we have to stop demanding approval. Just because I accept your choice, it doesn’t mean that I approve. I have to make a judgement based on my conscience. And that means that I don’t have to allow your rights to trample on mine.

So let’s give up this non-judgemental bandwagon and accept that we all have a right to judge for ourselves what is acceptable and what we approve of. And bear in mind that acceptance does not have to mean approval, and it does not have to mean refraining from making a judgement.

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