The lion who wanted to prove his authority asked a bear, “Who is the king of the jungle?” The bear answered, “You of course.” Having heard what he wanted to hear, he then asked a tiger, “Who is the king of the jungle?” The tiger answered, “You of course.” Again having heard what he wanted to hear, he then asked an elephant, “Who is the king of the jungle?” The elephant grabbed him and threw him up in the air and let him fall on some rocks. Then he threw him even higher than ever and let him fall into some trees. The lion now bruised and limping replied to the elephant, “If you don’t know the right answer, you don’t have to get so mad about it.”
We all want to be accepted and validated, but it is amazing how hard it is for us to give that acceptance to others. Instead we, like the lion, often seek to assert our authority over others. The Bible explains why we do this: “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Unless we learn to let God’s grace intervene, our selfish natures will insist on our being first at any cost.
The Apostle Paul is an example of someone who had the ability to accept other people who were different than he was and encourage them. He certainly wasn’t always that way, but God’s marvelous grace had transformed him. When Paul wrote Timothy his second letter, it was the last letter he would ever write. The letter is very personal and meant to encourage and inspire Timothy. Paul is in a Roman prison, very much alone and very lonely. Paul was the complete opposite of Timothy. He was an extrovert and Timothy an introvert. He was as bold as a lion and Timothy as fearful as a frightened kitten, and yet Paul gently accepts these differences in Timothy. His words here to Timothy were uplifting: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim 1:6-7).
Acceptance of another person is a mature act that changes both people. The greater the acceptance of each other in marriage, the more satisfying the relationship will be. Take for example a husband who has trouble because his wife is very outgoing and has many friends, while he is very solitary. He criticizes her and tries to change her into an introvert like himself. It won’t work, and it will diminish from their relationship. When he recognizes that this is how God made her and he accepts her, he begins to see how she blossoms when she is free to be herself. He then will begin to enjoy his relationship with her more. Perhaps the same could be said about the wife who nags her husband because he is such a spend thrift and doesn’t like spending money. The more she tries to change him into a spender like herself, the more unhappy he is and the more the relationship is diminished. Only when she begins to see his ways as helpful, do the both of them begin to enjoy each other.
This concept is applicable to every human relationship. When parents learn to see and appreciate the differences in their children, it makes an enormous difference in the relationships. When bosses see the unique differences in their employees and accept them, only then are they able to build on the strengths and minimize the weaknesses.
Are you able to accept the people God has put in your life? Is the one person you seem to be having so many problems with due to the fact that you are not very accepting of them? Let’s abandon the lion’s strategy for a while and see how many people we can validate through our acceptance of their uniqueness even though it so different than our own.