The idea for this post has been stewing in my head for quite a while, but it’s taken me a while to know how I wanted to write about it. (Fun Fact: it was one of the first ideas I had.) Then a few weeks ago a group I was part of was discussing what tolerance really means. So I’m going to discuss two different definitions of what tolerance is and leave the choice of which is right up to you. For this, like so many things is something which even though I have an opinion on, I cannot force you to accept. Please feel free to share your thoughts below if you agree or disagree with what I have said.
The first defintion of tolerance is the popular one. Tolerance means ‘not judging people and accepting people for who they are, what they have done and what they want to do’. This in theory means that anyone is able to do anything that they want to do and no one will stop them because to do so would be intolerant of them and their desires. I think that this is hard to do when pushed to its extremes. I believe that there are some things which are absolutely wrong and that if people do them, they should be stopped. So perhaps the better defintion of tolerance would be ‘everyone is free to do what they want as long as they don’t harm anyone’.
But what happens when you don’t agree with someone and do not want to accept their behaviour? You get branded as intolerant. So what is another way of defining tolerance which could recognise the differing viewpoints of people? I think that tolerance begins with firstly by listening to what other people have to say and, at least initially, not arguing with them, trying to prove that you are right. But once this is done you might still choose to disagree with them and not support what they are doing. The last part of tolerance is still loving people even though you don’t see eye to eye. It won’t be easy but it is important that the world is shaped by different points of view because each of us has a different experience and when part of the population becomes silent they don’t get the opportunity to help shape the world which belongs to them as much as everyone else.
So what does it mean to be tolerant? Is it straight out acceptance? Or is it a conscious decision to listen, to learn and to love those we disagree with? I’ll leave that decision up to you.