On Tolerance

Acceptance and tolerance are sometimes harder than they would seem on the surface. Many of us who are liberals talk about acceptance of diversity, and I think that on many levels we’re doing really well. But I’m talking about something a bit closer to home – accepting the ways your friends and loved ones differ from you.

Having many different types of friends does make life more interesting. A vibrant, diverse community is a blessing. At the same time, though, doesn’t it sometimes leave you scratching your head, wondering “what were they thinking?”

The thing is, everyone is different. Even your best friend, who agrees with you on most topics and really understands you, will sometimes do something that leaves you sitting there mystified. That’s because each person is unique, and each of us has different priorities. When people make their decisions, they’re coming from their own point of view. A determining factor that you would consider obvious may not even occur to them.

When someone from another culture or generation makes a choice that you don’t understand, it’s easier to chalk it up to having a different upbringing. When it’s a peer, though, you might have a harder time accepting that their decision works for them. Or even if it doesn’t ultimately work out, it’s their learning experience.

Practicing acceptance begins at home. When a situation comes up where my partner does something I wasn’t expecting, or doesn’t do something that I thought was self-evident, I have to stop and regroup. My expectations of someone else, even a close loved one, are purely my own business. Unless you’ve specifically made an agreement with someone, it’s not fair to make assumptions. And even if you have, there’s always room for change and renegotiation. If I’m going to consider myself a tolerant person, then I need to let it start with those I love most.

And indeed, perhaps it should even start with having tolerance for myself.


On Tolerance — 1 Comment

  1. Oh boy, you’ve hit on a line of thought that has been a really important lesson for me – both recently and in my life as a whole. I often hold expectations and then I am dissappointed when people cannot just read my mind and do things as I expected them do! (How DARE they?! LOL!)

    Seriously, though…I am very frequently challenged to work through my own expectations and remember that I cannot control everything (and, the funny part is, I don’t even WANT to, so why do I get upset?! This has been a topic of meditative thinking for me!).

    I also have a diverse group of friends, and I also scratch my head! Being a pagan, having Christian (or other belief systems) is occassionally a challenge for me. I think what I have the hardest time with are people who defend their opinions by holding a book in front of themselves, pointing and vehemently insisting that it must be TRUE if it is found within the pages of that book.

    I would personally much prefer intelligent conversations where people say “This is what FEELS true and right to me, but I acknowledge that all of us have our own way of viewing divinity – or lack therein – within our lives”.

    So, I guess to summarize, I also face some similar dilemna’s regarding acceptance, tolerance, expectations and loving and accepting things/people “as is”.

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