By Michael Kimmel
Remember when Abercrombie & Fitch was fashionable? The “A&F” logo appeared in all the chic magazines, and photos of gorgeous (half-naked) men and women were plastered – larger than life – all over their stores.
That was fun to look at, but I’d like to propose a new A&F, one that’s a lot more useful than overpriced t-shirts: Acceptance and Forgiveness.
Why A&F you may ask: who cares about this stuff? Well, if you’d like to have a happier, more peaceful life with relationships that are easy and loving, you might find this useful:
How can we accept someone as they are? Not easy, is it? Usually, we want everyone else to change so that our life would be more comfortable: no more “bad” drivers cutting us off, no more “friends” who treat us badly, no more Grindr hookups who “ghost” us…you get the drift. If only other people would behave better, then life would be great. Sadly, that doesn’t work. But…
What if we were willing to accept other people as they are?
What if we were willing to accept ourselves just as we are?
It would take away the Victim Mentality: “He did it to me/she hurt me/they made me feel bad.” We would get to be responsible for our lives and not blame our problems on other people. We would be empowered to change. And wouldn’t that be better?
If we’re all doing the best we can – given our histories and circumstances – how can we blame anyone for something they did? Forgiveness is a word that gets a lot of play in New Age consciousness, but I’d like to offer you a new way to think about it. Let’s dump the old idea of forgiveness: “You did a bad thing, but, because I’m so much better/smarter/enlightened than you are, I forgive you for your stupidity.”
What if I’m willing to forgive you because – like me – you’re doing the best you can? It’s a good place to start. And if I can forgive you for not being perfect, maybe I can forgive myself too.
February, the month of Valentine’s Day – with all its emphasis on love and romance – is the perfect time to begin to practice A&F in our relationships. Those relationships will show us all the places where we’re impatient, judge-y and self-centered.
On our own, we may think that we’re pretty great, that we have very few flaws, that we’re a terrific friend/lover/neighbor. But our relationships show us our “Dark Side”: those aspects of ourselves that we don’t like to look at or admit to.
Alone, we seldom see ourselves clearly. In our relationships, all our less-than-great characteristics have a spotlight shone upon them. Relationships repeatedly push our buttons. You know, the buttons that got installed during our childhoods that we haven’t yet disconnected.
Relationships mirror us: we get to see who we are: all our wonders and warts. We may feel loving and tolerant, but our lover shows us otherwise: “Quit trying to change me.” We may think that we’re not judgmental, but our BFF tells us, “Why are you so critical?” We think we’re easy-going, but our neighbor steps on our flower beds and we’re ready to go ballistic: “Get off my goddamned flowers, you moron!” We don’t say it (I hope), but we sure do think it.
Readers, I’m as guilty as you are in this stuff. We’re all in this together.
Relationships are an open door to our true self, and A&F can help us get there. If we are willing to accept others as they are, even when they’re not doing what we want them to do, then we are taking a big step in improving all of our relationships. And if we are willing to forgive our fellow imperfect brothers and sisters, then we’re on our way to a more pleasant day/year/life. And we’re closer to forgiving ourselves for all the mistakes we make.
Welcome to the New A&F: there may not be hot, half-naked models, but there will be lots of powerful, emotionally “naked” experiences (like accepting other people and forgiving them). And, in the long run, this will make our lives a whole lot better than an overpriced designer t-shirt.