Organic Spirituality 4: Social Acceptance
by: Gordon Wayne
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Maslow’s third biological requirement is belonging but that word is not completely accurate because a person can have full, legal membership without experiencing full acceptance. For example, the nouveau rich sometimes realize that the established aristocracy will not accept them as true aristocrats despite possessing the requisite credentials. Similarly, many women moving up the corporate ladder discover that the old boy’s club refuses to recognize them as bona fide colleagues despite their professional qualifications. While managers and employees belong to the same company, they can have an antagonistic relationship or display a grudging tolerance toward each other. Finally, although immigrants belong to a new country and possess the full legal rights awarded all legal inhabitants, they rarely experience the full acceptance of citizens by birth.
These examples illustrate common experiences in which people achieve legitimate membership in a specific social group though their peers do not grant full acceptance to their new contemporaries. Every human requires full, genuine social acceptance, which occurs when peers befriend each other without hesitation, reluctance, or any other negative bias. Because of this subtle distinction, we are calling the third level in our theory of organic spirituality acceptance rather than belonging.
Sincere acceptance comes when we cherish each other’s company, when we enjoy eating, drinking, talking, laughing and crying together, when we relish playing games or sports together. Genuine acceptance comes when we listen to each other’s opinions and beliefs, when we value each other’s strengths and virtues, when we politely compensate for each other’s weaknesses and vices. Full acceptance is a reciprocal experience in which we get what we give and we give what we get, a symbiotic experience that germinates in childhood and blossoms in adulthood.
Our capacity for giving and receiving acceptance grows from parental acceptance, specifically whether parents celebrate or bemoan their children’s character and spirit. When parents cherish their children, acceptance will germinate, but when parents habitually lament their children’s character, doubt will replace acceptance. Consequently, if parents want their children to develop a healthy sense of acceptance, they must celebrate their children’s inherent character without exception, excuse, or conditions. They must praise their children’s puerile accomplishments and celebrate their juvenile adventures because this will sow the seeds of acceptance.
Although we are not completely responsible for acceptance during childhood, we are wholly responsible for this psychological requirement as adults. Narcissistic individuals like crime bosses, war lords, despots, and authoritarians are notorious for demanding absolute respect from others although they rarely bestow genuine respect. Most sensible humans will show respect whenever these characters are present, but that respect is cosmetic respect or fearful deference rather than genuine acceptance. As adults, we must accept others before they sincerely accept us, we must respect them before they genuinely reciprocate, we must love others before they truly love us.
Human nature instinctively reserves genuine acceptance, respect, and affection for truly reciprocal relationships. For example, we honored our favorite teachers because they sincerely respected us first, and we sincerely respected our favorite bosses because they truly respected us first. We only receive true acceptance, genuine respect, sincere admiration, and authentic love from the people to whom we extend true acceptance, genuine respect, sincere admiration, and authentic love. More important though, we will receive exactly what we give measure for measure, ounce for ounce, kilogram for kilogram.
Some may interpret this as an edict to love every human on the planet, which is a noble utopian dream but humanly impossible and utterly unrealistic. Anybody pursuing this utopian delusion cannot advance to the next level in Maslow’s hierarchy nor our theory of organic spirituality because the dream will consume their time and energy. To avoid wasting our precious biological resources, we need a realistic objective that will fulfill our need for acceptance yet allow us to continue our sojourn into organic spirituality.
According to recent research into human relationships, socially adjusted adults have two to four intimate relationships and ten to twenty good friendships. With this natural objective, we can confidently advance an additional 4% into organic spirituality for every close familial relationship and another 2% for every good friendship. Assuming we have thirty minutes to contemplate something besides our social relationships, or lack of quality relationships, we can confidently advance to the next stage in organic spirituality.