By Shelley Galasso Bonanno, MA, LLP

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” – Anais Nin

We all view the world through our own individual lenses. Our views of the world and the decisions we make are multi-layered, and influenced by many factors, both conscious and unconscious.

We all also have opinions, and it can be easy for us to expect those around us to think and act as we might in similar situations. But that assumption is often not correct. It can be frustrating when our attempts to convince others to make a different choice or change their opinions to ones we feel they should make. It is unlikely our efforts will convince them. And while it can be very tempting to see the world in a one size fits all, black and white format, with a right or wrong way to do things, in reality our options are much more nuanced than that. Choices are often not right or wrong but a combination of many factors, each of which can be viewed differently by different people.

Imagine a world in which everyone we encounter is just like us. They like the same things, make the same choices, and live the same life. There would be no conflict regarding our differences. But would that be a good thing? While it may initially sound idyllic, differences do not always have to separate us. They can help us grow, make life more interesting and meaningful, and bring us together as well. The ability to accept other people for who they are, even if they are not like us, even if they make a choice different than ours, is important for healthy relationships and can deepen and enrich our connection with others. There is something very powerful in making a connection with a person who we accept as they are and who accepts us as we are.

But accepting the choices and decisions of others that are not the same choices we might make can be particularly difficult if it involves those for whom we care deeply, especially if we feel their choice will hurt them or someone else. What happens when a loved one makes a choice we don’t agree with? We all have hopes and dreams for those closest to us, and when they make a choice that doesn’t align with our own, it can sometimes feel impossible to accept, or even seem to be a rejection of our values and beliefs.

Acceptance involves an awareness that we are unable, nor should we, make others’ decisions for themselves. In strong, healthy relationships, we do not need to accept all the choices others make but we do need to respect their choices. Accepting people for who they are and the choices they make, even if they think or act differently than we would, can require the ability and willingness to put yourself in their shoes. Acceptance is often a process and can require practice but will ultimately lead to richer and more gratifying relationships built on respect and acceptance of one another.

Shelley BonannoA lifelong resident of Macomb County, Shelley Galasso Bonanno is a practicing limited licensed psychologist who earned her master’s degree from Wayne State University in 1987. She has a breadth of experience in working with adults, children, families, and couples. In addition to working in private practice, Ms. Bonanno performs consultative services for State and forensic agencies. She performs custody and parenting time evaluations and is a court approved mediator. Her writings have appeared in various online and print publications. An advocate for mental health, you can follow Ms. Bonanno on Twitter @shelleybonanno.

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