Personalizing Tolerance Continued

As promised, though with a bit of a delay, we are picking up where we left off two weeks ago.  I gave you the assignment of noticing yourself when faced with opinions, beliefs or attitudes that are different from our own. Just to recap the assignment, you were to notice what happened, what you thought, what you felt and what you did in a situation that would call for tolerance.  If you didn’t do the assignment, think of something now.  A time when someone you know did or said something you disagreed with.  Got it?  OK let’s move on.
What were your thoughts when this occurred?  Did you think how stupid the person is?  Some sort of shaming attitude toward them?  That’s what it is, so I figure let’s just call a spade a spade.  We often lump a person into a whole definition based on one action.  I do this, I know from first hand experience.  I’m thinking of a Facebook post I read in which a friend stated a belief of hers, a belief I do not agree with.  My first thought was, “Oh, seriously!  You have to swing so far to one side and tell your readers we’re nuts if we don’t agree.”  What was your thought?
Next, what did you feel?  What emotions did you notice?  Emotions generally fall into four categories: anger, fear, sadness and joy.  I felt anger.  It was like I was being told I’m stupid and the emotion that followed was anger.  I could feel the anger physically, too.  It was in my face.  My cheeks felt hot and my head had a lot of pressure in it.
What did you do?  I felt the anger.  I thought about the post.  The friend had passion about the subject.  It’s something important to her.  Do I have to agree with her position?  No, I don’t.  Did I need to write a comment telling her I don’t agree.  Not really.  I didn’t see the point of it.  I chose not to challenge her belief.  Her belief does not affect me directly in any way.  By not saying something, I was not shirking my responsibility for my own boundaries.  This was simply a situation where one person expressed her thoughts about something and I didn’t agree.  No point in starting a war over it, telling her I thought she was wrong.  She came to her belief in her own journey and I want to honor that.  Again, it doesn’t hurt me for her to have or express her belief.  Sure, I got angry, but that’s because I saw the post as a bit of an attack.  It wasn’t.  It was just a passionate person sharing something she believes in.
What did you learn about tolerance in your own back yard from this exercise?  I would love to know!  Feel free to post a comment or email me:  If you have specific situations that you want help with and wouldn’t mind me using them as an example, let me know that, too.  I can change identifying information so it remains anonymous.

Personalizing Tolerance

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…