Acceptance is not love!


 Acceptance is not love. You love a person because he or she has lovable traits, but you accept everybody just because they’re alive and human.”

~Albert Ellis

This is one of the premises of REBT that sometimes confuses and pisses people off.  It is closely related to the irrational belief that one absolutely must have love and love oneself (so called “self esteem”)  in order to be happy. 

This sort of thinking is, however, a trap, a semantic swamp you can spend the rest of your life wandering around in and never make sense of.  The REBT solution is simple, although admittedly beyond the scope of this modest post to explore at any depth. 

However, you can begin today. Right now, today, STOP calling other people names. Stop calling your self names. Just resolve to stop it. Stop calling yourself and others names. Stop labeling them. Stop rating them as good or bad or any variation on that theme.  Stop picking out a single attribute, or action or incident and painting someone’s entire self as that.  For example, Johnny failed the test, therefore Johnny is a failure. Applying this distortion positively isn’t much better, Johnny passed the test, therefore Johnny is a bright boy.”  Yes, of course, get into the issue of why Johnny failed the test. Perhaps he was ill. Perhaps he was distracted. Perhaps he could benefit from tutoring. Perhaps he doesn’t know how to deal with a conflict with teacher. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.  At least now, you have a fighting chance of dealing with the problem appropriately and compassionately.  At least now there is the possibility of a real human connection rather than judgment.




However, if Johnny really is a failure  (a thing that fails) there is nothing you can do about it. With apologies to Gertrude Stein, a failure is a failure is a failure  is a failure . . . You have effectively assigned failure to Johnny as a sticky label, as an identity, as an immutable fact about his nature, his essence, his being, his self. It is as if the one failed test was like a drop of red food coloring added to a glass of clear water, permanently changing is basic quality.


Evaluating, judging actions, behavior, performance is fine if you keep it sane and rational.


  1. Distinguish self from behavior. Clearly distinguish in your own mind and in your speech the difference between self and behavior.
  2. Express positive regard: Exercise self-acceptance of your self and the self of the other person.
  3. Be clear and specific: Focus and stay focused on a single action or issue.
  4. Be humble:  You are not God. Be clear that you are expressing an opinion. Your opinion may be factual or it may not, but it is still an opinion.  Legendary movie producer, Darryl F. Zanuc rejected Clark Gable because quote-unquote: “His ears are too big and he looks like an ape”
  5. Be compassionate: We are all human, all of us are in this boat together, and all of us make mistakes, behave poorly and fail to succeed from time-to-time.
  6. Avoid shoulds:Guilt is a poor motivator whether directed at someone else or at your dear, sweet self. Do not use shoulds, oughts or musts, etc. to make someone feel guilty. It doesn’t help. The desire to punish is not a good reason to judge or evaluate.
  7. Focus on solutions: Be positive. Look for solutions. Compromise. Seek commitment. Make an action plan.


When was the last time you confused self with behavior?  Please share your experience with us?



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Originally posted 2013-05-02 07:39:44.

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