Tolerance (Part 1)

Tolerance is kind of a tricky word. I much prefer “respect,” “love,” or “honor,” especially since that’s what I would like to receive. But I’m human just like everyone else, and, at times, “tolerance” is about all I can handle with some people.  It’s just a personality thing.

But, seriously, maybe tolerance is kind of like respect. I mean, to me, tolerance MEANS treating someone with respect even if they’re doing something you don’t agree with. AND, if you can express your own views even while still treating the other person with tolerance and respect, that is an even more praiseworthy accomplishment. And, believe me, there are ways. There are ways to share your own opinion without invalidating someone else’s. So many people forget about that part when sharing their opinion but feel entitled to it when listening to yours. That is one change that I’d like to see happen: to be able to give what we expect to receive. It’s so simple, so basic, but SO easy to forget.

Some people are easy to respect: the ones who share our views, the ones who give time and other resources toward a cause, the ones who visibly give respect and love to us and others…

Other people might be harder to respect or tolerate: those who have broken the law, those who have hurt us or someone we know, those who use harsh or insulting communication…

Then there are those that some regard with hostility but most just kind of… dismiss:  those who speak differently, those of a different race, those from a different country, those with certain disabilities, impairments, or medical conditions, those of a different income level… basically, those who are not like us.  This can even include things that are seemingly more trivial, such as lack of confidence, lack of certain social skills, a different sense of humor, hair color, and so forth (who can really list EVERYTHING?).  I believe that for most of us, it’s this latter group that we struggle with the most – those with a slightly (or more) different attitude or lifestyle.

Well, what if we don’t agree with the attitude or lifestyle?  I say that’s great!  Life would be so boring if everyone thought exactly the same way.  I mean, what would we ever talk about?

The main point I’d like to make is that it is OKAY to be different.  And it is OKAY to notice differences in others.  It is even okay to disagree with some of the differences in others (such as attitudes, viewpoints, lifestyles, etc.).  For example, not everyone wants to be a minimalist like me.  Some people even think it’s really strange.  I just laugh because if it wasn’t my lifestyle, I would probably find it a little strange, too.  But what I want to emphasize is that there is at least one thing that we all have in common:  we are all PEOPLE.  That’s right, we are HUMAN.  And don’t ever forget that.

There is a certain level of respect, honor, and love that we all deserve just because of that fact.  So treat that other person as just that:  another person who also sleeps, gets hungry, gets thirsty, wants friends, has likes and dislikes, etc.  Forget for a moment WHAT they are – a Catholic, a gay person, a Jew, an African-American, a bank teller – and see them for the individual that they are.  Yes, what we are does contribute to our identities, but it is not the core.  I see this “forgetting” as kind of a first step to tolerance.  Once we can see another person as just a person and honor them for that, then we can add those other things to the bigger picture until we can truly celebrate WHO that other person is.

“But if we just tolerate everything, we don’t stand for anything!”  No, no, tolerance does not mean agreeing.  We can respectfully disagree.  And the point is to respect the other person AND their opinion even if we don’t agree with their opinion.  It can be hard to do.  But in my next post, I’m going to explore some practical ideas for putting tolerance to use in our real lives.  Comment or otherwise send me a message if there is something you’d like included or just if you have comments or ideas you’d like to share.

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Posted on January 25, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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