Today I want to talk about three words that can really make a difference in your life. I’ve been practicing them whenever I remember to (so probably half of the time or so). These three words are “And That’s Okay.” They are the key to acceptance, which is a key to inner peace. When we can accept things as they are, we stop fighting against them. We stop trying to change them. We stop being miserable.
Transforming your complaint
So how does this work, you ask? It is quite simple. When you find yourself thinking of something that you don’t like, you simply end your complaint with, “… and that’s okay.” Here are some examples. As you read them, think about how the sentence makes you feel. “My child didn’t do her homework yesterday.” “My husband forgot our anniversary.” “No one washed the dishes last night.” “My son crashed the car.” “All the kids have lice again.” “My mother-in-law is coming over.”
Now let’s add the three magical words to the end of each sentence. See how they feel now. “My child didn’t do her homework yesterday, and that’s okay.” “My husband forgot our anniversary, and that’s okay.” “No one washed the dishes last night, and that’s okay.” “My son crashed the car, and that’s okay.” “All the kids have lice again, and that’s okay.” “My mother-in-law is coming over, and that’s okay.”*
I find that adding that little phrase softens it dramatically. There is less to push against. It’s like saying, “This is the way things are, nothing I can do will change it, so I will save my energy for things that I can change.”
It doesn’t necessarily mean that you will let it happen again, if it is truly something that you have some power over. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you condone it. It does mean that you aren’t going to beat yourself up over it, or wallow in misery over it. You just accept it.
But it isn’t okay
Sometimes I find I argue with myself over it. I don’t want to accept it. I have decided that it isn’t okay. Then I have two options. I can transform it into action, or I can actively look for reasons why it really is okay (because, really, this is exactly how it is supposed to be at this moment).
So let’s try a real life example. “My son got a warning at school for frequent late homework… and that’s okay.” It means that his teachers truly care about him and that he learns the material they are trying to teach him. It means he has a chance to step up his personal responsibility and take ownership of his education. It also means that the teachers are handling the situation and so I don’t have to scold him about it.
How about something harder? “We cannot keep our dog because she has become a danger to our children, … and that’s okay.” I did the best job I could to be a good owner /pet parent for her. I gave her unconditional love. Letting her go will mean my children don’t need to worry about getting bitten anymore. It is not a reflection on me personally that our dog is incredibly anxious and high strung, and we have a loud, boisterous family.
Key to serenity
Sometimes a problem we are struggling with can’t be transformed into action, and you can’t think of any reasons why it is okay. “My younger brother is dying of cancer … and that’s okay.” It is hard to find reasons why this is okay (I can come up with many reasons why it is *not* okay), and there is nothing I can resolve to do to make it different in the future. And yet, I can still find peace in accepting it as it is and not agitating over it.
I want to end with the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr.
“God grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
When do you think you will next use this phrase? What part of your life will you transform with it?
*Just for the record, I love my mother-in-law dearly. I never dread her coming over, but I know that many people do struggle with theirs and that is why I used it as an example. Actually, I have only had three of those complaints. The other three I made up.