After last week’s post I realized it might be helpful to talk more about tolerance. A few definitions of tolerance:
1) The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior one does not necessarily agree with.
2) Willingness to accept feelings, habits or beliefs that are different from your own
Tolerance is not agreement. So often we get that mixed up. People will say, “You must be tolerant,” and in saying it are asking you to agree with them. When tolerance is used in this way, the word is being used incorrectly. Sometimes groups will say they are tolerant, but really, only for the people who are aligned with their way of thinking. That is not tolerance. True tolerance means accepting and allowing another’s point of view, actions or attitudes. In its purest form, the tolerant person or group hears and honors all points of view, especially those that are opposed to their own. It is rare to find the truly tolerant.
Tolerance does not mean that one, while tolerating other views and behaviors, doesn’t continue with their own agenda. It does not mean becoming diluted to the point of having no beliefs, no ground on which to stand. It is possible to be incredibly passionate about something and still be open to and accepting of another’s passion. When we open ourselves up to hearing another’s point of view, we let go of hostility. When we seek to understand why a person believes and acts as he does, we create connection.
For most of you, this concept of tolerance can best be applied in your closest relationships. Sure it’s good for the issues so prevalent in our world, but most of your life is likely affected more by the person sitting next to you than any political agenda. How often are you practicing tolerance with your mother, co-worker, friend or lover? Notice in the next few days how you respond to the differing opinions and beliefs of the people in your closest circles. Notice your reactions, especially to anything that is against or contrary to what you are thinking or believing. This is a practice in awareness. Being tuned in to what you are doing, thinking, feeling and saying.
I’m going to pick up here next week. Your homework to prepare is to be aware of the degree of tolerance you practice in your life, the one you live every day, the people, places and activities that affect you directly. Note what happened, what you thought, how you felt and what you did. Do this in some form that you can go back to like writing or recording a voice memo. Don’t just leave it in your head. We tend to change things in our head and we don’t always see them as clearly when we come back to them. Until next week…