When a person is able to feel and communicate genuine acceptance of another, he possesses a capacity for being a powerful helping agent for the other. His acceptance of the other, as he is, is an important factor in fostering a relationship in which the other person can grow, develop, make constructive changes, learn to solve problems, move in the direction of psychological health, become more productive and creative, and actualize his fullest potential.
It is one of those simple but beautiful paradoxes of life: When a person feels that he is truly accepted by another, as he is, then he is freed to move from there and to begin to think about how he wants to change, how we wants to grow, how he can become different, how he might become more of what he is capable of being.
Acceptance is like the fertile soil that permits a tiny seed to develop into the lovely flower it is capable of becoming. The soil only enables the seed to become the flower. It releases the capacity of the seed to grow, but the capacity is entirely within the seed. As with the seed, a child contains entirely within his organism the capacity to develop. Acceptance is like the soil-it merely enables the child to actualize his potential.
Why is parental acceptance such a significant positive influence on the child? This is not generally understood by parents. Most people have been brought up to believe that if you accept a child he will remain just the way he is; that the best way to help a child become something better in the future is to tell him what you don’t accept about him now.
Therefore, most parents rely heavily on the language of unacceptance in rearing children, believing this is the best way to help them. The soil that most parents provide for their children’s growth is heavy with evaluation, judgment, criticism, preaching, moralizing, admonishing, and commanding-messages that convey unacceptance of the child as he is.
The language of acceptance opens kids up. It frees them to share their feelings and problems. Professional therapists and counselors have shown just how powerful such acceptance can be. Those therapist and counselors who are most effective are the ones who can convey to the people who come to them for help that they are truly accepted.
This is why one often hears people say that in counseling or therapy they felt totally free of the counselor’s judgment. They report that they experienced a freedom to tell him the worst about themselves-they felt their counselor would accept them no matter what they said or felt. Such acceptance is one of the most important elements contributing to the growth and change that takes place in people through counseling and therapy.