Understanding vs. Accepting

On a rational level, Sanni McCandless understood that her boyfriend, Alex Honnold, just “had to” climb up a one-kilometer wall of sheer rock — but to accept the free-solo climber’s passion on a day-to-day basis, that was a different story.

When we want to accommodate to the needs or wants of someone we love, it’s tempting to think we’ll have to do it just once. That all we must do is wrap our heads around the logic of something or construct our own where we can’t spot any. “After that, it’ll be smooth sailing!” we believe.

But the husband of a soldier will still feel pain, worry, and loneliness every time his wife goes on her next assignment. The partner of a rope-less climber must face the chance that “this time, he might fall” again and again. And even when you’ve accepted that your son is really good at video games and playing them 24/7 might work out in ways you cannot yet imagine, it’s not easy to watch him stare at a screen for hours every day.

Understanding is easy. That part we truly need do only once. But what comes next — the constant acceptance of the reality we now understand — is a lifelong duty, and that’s not a box we’ll ever get to check. The best we can do is practice. Day-in, day-out. Practice, practice, practice. Accept, accept, accept.

Love is understanding. But more importantly, love is acceptance. Make room for the uniqueness of the people you love, and then fight to protect that space every day.