Every year at this time, many of us hear of the acceptances of young people that we know by various institutions of higher learning. And, many of us who have attempted entry into a university, graduate, or professional school, have felt the sense of joy and relief experienced by those receiving acceptances. It is good to be accepted.
For most of our lives, we all, often consciously and sometimes subconsciously, seek acceptance and approval – initially from our parents and later from friends, groups, clubs, teams, schools, employers, and others. As humans, we are social animals, and groups within society establish standards, either formal or informal, for inclusion and exclusion.
To be included means that you have been evaluated by those in authority and recognized as meeting the standards of that group. And, whether that group represents a major university, a corporation, a team, a gang, a private club, or some other form of professional, academic, or social clique, that inclusion redefines you and clothes you with the status and prestige associated with that particular group. Membership, as they say, has its privileges.
Of course, educational institutions, teams, and other groups often need to limit their students, players, or members as a matter of practicality. It is neither the necessity nor process of selection, but rather the attitudes displayed by selectors and selectees, individually and collectively, that heighten the anguish of the applicant awaiting a decision.
The flip-side of acceptance is rejection. The stark reality is that not everyone who applies will be accepted. In fact, most applicants must be rejected in order for any group to maintain its aura of exclusivity. And despite the long odds, the more exclusive a group is, the more desirable that group becomes in the eyes of those desperately seeking inclusion in its ranks.
The human ego, while broad, is not very deep. And, group exclusivity feeds that ego and begets the most valueless of human emotions, pride based solely on group identity and contempt for those deemed unworthy of inclusion. This is the dark side of acceptance.
Acceptance’s dark side is the product of vanity, the ego’s narcissistic way of proclaiming its comparative significance; hence, the relief felt by those receiving the imprimatur of acceptance. For the acceptees, the stigma of rejection has been averted.
With acceptance, the anguish of possible rejection felt by the applicant is all too often quickly forgotten, much like the labor pains of the mother during childbirth. Rather than serving as a humbling experience, the process of application and evaluation is now perceived as a process of validation, a means of keeping out undesirable elements.
And so is fabricated the wall of exclusivity and class structure that demeans our very humanity.