I am not a religious person, but when I think about acceptance, I think about Saint Francis of Assisi, who was a Catholic friar born in 1181. The way he lived his life showed how acceptance and value are intrinsically linked. When we place equal value on others as we do ourselves, acceptance happens naturally and from this acceptance comes mutual love and respect for one another. The same is also true for inner acceptance. All parts of self needs to be valued to be accepted and loved.
Francis was of the belief that other animals were his “brothers and sisters” and were equally entitled to hear about God’s wisdom and love. In addition to all kinds of people, he would bless and help animals every chance he got. Today I want to talk to you about one of the most famous stories about Saint Francis, which teaches us many things about inner and outer acceptance.
Francis and the WolfFrancis would travel far and wide to share his teachings, and in this particular story, he was staying in the town of Gubbio when he learned that a hungry wolf was killing and terrorizing the animals and villagers. The people wanted to kill the wolf, but would often die in the process. It got to the point where villagers were afraid to leave the city. Francis however, decided that he should go and meet the wolf. After he found him, he spoke to the wolf as he would a person. “Brother Wolf,” said Francis, “I want to make peace between you and the people of Gubbio. They will harm you no more and you must no longer harm them. All past crimes are to be forgiven.” Francis commanded the wolf to follow him into the town so that he would make peace with the villagers. With the wolf by his side, Francis gave a sermon and asked for peace on behalf of the wolf. He asked the villagers to repent their sins and that they feed the hungry wolf. The wolf agreed by bowing his head and placing his paw in Francis’s hand as a sign of acceptance to the new agreement. From that day forward, everyone kept the pact and the wolf and villagers lived in peace from that point forward.
How can we take this story and apply it to our society or ourselves? There are real nuggets of wisdom here, whether you believe the story or not.
Placing equal value on allThis devoted monk placed equal value on all sentient beings and their needs, wants and desires. He helped everyone achieve peace by reconciling needs of both animals and humans. In contrast, today by not accepting all animals (regardless of species) as our “brothers and sisters” as Francis did, their sentience is not as valued and their needs often go ignored as a result. Even amongst our own species, humanity has struggled with acceptance of people who are different. At some level those who are perceived as different are less valued. How different would humanity be, if we treated each other as brothers and sisters instead of strangers whose needs we don’t care about.
Communication and listening How many times does humanity try to destroy what it doesn’t understand? Acceptance can only come through an open heart to work together through honest communication. We have to accept what is not working before we can move forward and work towards solutions that meet everyone’s needs equally so that everybody feels valued and accepted.
Communicating and valuing selfThe pearls of wisdom I mentioned earlier should also be applied to self. This wolf represents parts of the self that we do not like or value. If we place value on all aspects of self (as Francis did on all life forms) then we make great leaps and bounds in self-acceptance and love. We can do this through meditation, sitting with ourselves in silence, so we can fully hear our own thoughts, needs, and desires. From there we can make our own pact, our own agreement to be good and kind to every aspect of self, even those aspects we like the least. If we do not do this for ourselves, we go through the downward spiral of trying to destroy aspects of self that we do not understand and fear. Like the villagers, we close the gates to the outside, we close our hearts and become afraid to live fully. We choose instead to hide ourselves away or immerse ourselves in addictions, activities and busyness so we don’t feel the pain. It’s time to make a pact with ourselves and each other to accept and value all life, including our own.
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